A year ago the Jonathan Alder boys basketball team went with a youth movement and suffered through the learning pains that went with it.
A year later the Pioneers again will be young, but those inexperienced players a year ago are back with a year under their belts and that should prove to be beneficial as the team looks to take a step toward being the Central District power it was prior to the rebuilding project.
“We still have a really young group with just one senior in our top eight,” Pioneers coach Brent Cahill said. “Our starting backcourt is back after going through some growing pains last year. Our guys really worked hard in the off-season and we’re looking forward to this season.
Senior point guard Hayden Hess (5-11) and junior shooting guard Declan Thomas (6-3) anchor a more experienced backcourt this time around.
“Those two played a lot of minutes last year and have really taken over the leadership role this season,” Cahill said.
Also returning to the lineup is sophomore swingman Tanner Killian. He started 16 games last year as a freshman.
The team will have another crop of talented but extremely young players playing major roles this season, including 6-5 freshman forward Trey Pugh and 6-0 freshman guard Andre Koenig.
“Trey is our tallest and most-skilled player,” Cahill said. “He had a great summer and played really well. He’s a guard-forward type who likes to play on the perimeter but can go inside. Neither he or Andre look like freshmen, they’re built up pretty good.”
Other players who will play major roles include, sophomore guard Jon Peters (6-0), junior guard Anthony Dresvyannikov (5-8), senior forward Austin Gaylor (5-9) and junior forward Derek Parker (6-1).
With the Pioneers in the middle of a youth movement, Cahill is excited about direction his program is moving in. He sees progress being made on a daily basis.
“I’m excited to be around these kids,” he said. “We’re in a good spot where our program is. We’ve got young kids that want to be in the gym and want to get better. We’ve got some skilled basketball kids coming up through the program.”
The 2013-14 season will be the first in the new Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference Red Division, which means 14 league games and not having to schedule and play 22 non-league opponents.
“It’s such a better situation for us schedule-wise,” Cahill said. “We are now in a league playing against teams with similar talent level. The thing that will be different for us is playing teams for a second time in the same season that’s something we haven’t had to do.”
If the young Pioneers continue to improve, there’s a chance they could be ready to do major damage come tournament time.
“After going 21-2 a couple seasons ago, we took our lumps last year,” Cahill said. “We’re going to work hard and we’re going to get better. I’m excited about this team.”