Entering his third season as the head boys basketball coach at Madison-Plains High School, Joe B. Stewart has reignited a sense of pride amongst the Golden Eagles faithful.
Prior to his arrival the boys hoops program at the school was struggling. But the team took a huge step forward a year ago finishing with a 13-10 record, a whopping 10 games better than what it posted in Stewart’s first year at the school.
Madison-Plains High School however graduated the bulk of last year’s roster. But despite losing so much production (85 percent of points and rebounding), the program is in a much better place than where it was when the current coaching staff arrived on campus and that should help as it enters what has to be classified as a rebuilding year.
“There is no question, we will miss our senior class of 2017,” the coach said. “They dedicated themselves to the process of chasing excellence and the results really energized our students, school, and community. But we also sensed growth of individuals throughout our program who have looked forward to their opportunity to build on what we’ve established the past two years.”
The Eagles are young but there are a handful of varsity veterans who will be counted on to step up and lead the way. Senior forward Ian Richards (6-3), senior guard Jeffery Wittman (5-9) and senior forward Spencer Ruzicka (6-5) are the top returners. Ruzicka is a two-year letterwinner, Wittman averaged 6 points per game last year and Richards averaged 3 ppg and 4 rpg.
Richards and Ruzicka are two-year lettermen, while Wittman was a transfer last year who contributed heavily after sitting out the first 11 games due to the OHSAA transfer policy.
“We will have a blend of youth and experience as we have seen this group’s potential as we worked out this summer,” Stewart said.
The team also has senior post Jacob Petee and wing Jacob Toops on the roster. The two of them were members of the school’s JV team a year ago.
The Eagles will turn to a number of talented sophomores to contribute early and often.
Sophomores Matt Johnson (5-10) and Jarrett Vallery (5-10) as well as sophomore forward Anthony Holbrook (6-2) are ready to contribute.
The rest of the roster includes sophomores Sebastian Ruzicka and Chris Ernst, and freshmen Ryan Ernst and Paul Bryant.
“Our success, as always, will be dependent upon our defense and our guys acceptance of their roles in a team concept,” Stewart said. “We will find out what we have when we face adversity, and given the opportunity to grow from it.”
Reach Chris Miles at 740-852-1616, ext. 1618 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.