Written by Andrew Ottoson Tuesday, 28 November 2006 18:00Coach Rex Ostmeyer's Warriors are bringing back all four of last season's top scorers. "I believe Jason Hett is one of the best players in this part of the state," Ostmeyer said. "Any pre-season player watch list might include this quality young man." Pictured are: (from left), junior Calvin Jeffrey, senior Travis Hett, senior Jason Hett, senior Emmanuel Jackson and junior Chase Carlson.
Having graduated six seniors from a team that went 6-15 a year ago, now might not seem like the conventional time for a coach to raise the bar.
But with a closer look, the Marion boys' basketball team is bringing back its top four scorers from a year ago.
"The strength of our team will be with the experience and talent of senior returners Jason Hett and Travis Hett," coach Rex Ostmeyer said.
Ostmeyer described Jason Hett as a 6-foot, 1-inch guard who "does everything well, and he has no real weaknesses."
Perhaps the greatest strength in his game is the ability to get to the free throw line and to convert those opportunities into points, as is evidenced by the 81 foul shots he made last year.
"Jason made second-team all-MCAA last year, and he missed most of the football season because of injury," Ostmeyer said. "He's very hungry right now."
All-MCAA honorable mention Travis Hett is the other half of the Warriors' guard tandem.
According to Ostmeyer: "Travis runs and jumps incredibly well, and he's realizing he needs to get to the hoop. He will impact the game more when he's getting to the foul line and getting to the boards."
The duo has averaged double-digit point totals the past two years, and they have played well at the other end of the floor, too.
"Travis and Jason have guarded the best players we've played the last two years," Ostmeyer said. "Each has the ability to be one of the best players in this area."
Calvin Jeffrey, also a guard, is a returning starter for MHS. He led the team in assists as a sophomore who was, in Ostmeyer's words, "thrown to the wolves."
"Calvin has been great so far (in practice). He looks very hungry. I told him he'd have to become a lock-down perimeter defender, and he's taken up that challenge."
"We are looking for Calvin to take his game to another level as a junior."
Emmanuel Jackson gives the team an element of explosiveness on the perimeter.
"He's incredibly strong and athletic, and he's improved his off-hand," Ostmeyer said. "He's very difficult to guard off the drive. If he continues to improve his overall skill level, he will be a very tough matchup for opponents."
Those four players averaged 38.1 points last season, and they logged 56 percent of the minutes in a season and accounted for 77 percent of the team's point production.
Beyond those four, the Warriors have several players whose expected contributions are harder to measure.
The one who may well have the greatest impact on the team's fortunes simply because of his height is 6-5 sophomore center Luke Gordon.
"We don't have a lot of depth on the front line. He'll have to play well for us because he's our only true height," Ostmeyer said.
The team has two options at forward: Kyle Hett, who scored six points in 12 minutes of action last season, and Justin Heidebrecht.
"Kyle is a dirty-work type of player who plays tough defense, rebounds and cleans up around the basket," Ostmeyer said.
Given the calibre of perimeter players the team has available, the biggest question mark pertains to the team's ability to play effective interior defense.
In the coach's words, "(the team) lacks size and a proven or experienced post player."
But the flip side of that is an abundance of highly experienced, highly skilled smaller players.
"We've got the experience and we've got the depth. For the first time in three years in the Mid-Central, seniors are our best players," Ostmeyer said.
"If we raise our expectations, champions will reach those expectations," Ostmeyer said. "I challenged them to consider the league championship, the tournament championship, the state championship."
Not that being a champion is at all easy-the team is set to open at the Inman Tournament.
"Inman is one of the top 2A programs in the state and every team in that tournament is a state-caliber team," Ostmeyer said. "Every year that's a knock-down, drag-out war."
The same is true about the Mid-Central. Wichita Collegiate, Smoky Valley and Halstead were top-flight teams last season, and all three will have core players returning.
In addition to those, Ostmeyer recognizes Hillsboro and Hesston as traditional powers that will deploy quality teams.
"It is always a dogfight and everybody has one or two of their best players back.
"The way I see it, Collegiate is still the league champ until someone knocks them off, and it will be interesting this year."