Also gone is Jason Hett, whose combination of athleticism and tenacity in the paint routinely put the Warriors in position to win games.
In crunch time, the ball usually found its way to one or the other.
But with a broader base of capable players, the team will have significantly improved depth, affording the Warriors an eight-man rotation compared to the six-man setup coach Rex Ostmeyer’s team relied on last year.
“Out of necessity we had to play our seniors a lot more than we would have liked,” Ostmeyer said. “This year, we’ll be trying to cut our key guys’ minutes down, so that they can play harder when they’re on the court and not have to pace themselves so much.”
But going with a short list a season ago allowed a few players to gain a lot of experience.
Enter Calvin Jeffrey, a 5-foot, 8-inch senior who averaged 9.5 points per game and earned honorable mention in the MCAA a season ago.
“As a two-year starter with over a thousand minutes of high school basketball under his belt, he’s vitally important for us,” Ostmeyer said. “As he goes, we’re going to go most nights. He’s going to be the heart and soul of our attack on both ends of the floor.”
Jeffrey will move from point guard to shooting guard and fill the role of primary scorer.
Justin Heidebrecht, a 6-2 senior, returns to the forward spot he earned with a 15-point outing last year. Heidebrecht ended up averaging a fraction under five points per game in the MHS frontcourt.
“He’s a kid that loves to play the game of basketball, and he’s a kid that can do a lot of different things,” Ostmeyer said. “He can shoot from the 3-point line and he can score down low and crash the boards. If he plays with confidence, he can do a lot of different things for us.”
The team will also lean on Chase Carlson, a 5-9 senior, who will take over the point guard position after serving as Jeffrey’s substitute in 2006.
“Some nights he played more than others, but he was in our rotation last year,” Ostmeyer said. “This is his year to be a starter, to run the point for us. A good basketball program needs kids like Chase, who are hungry for their opportunity to show what they can do.”
The only other Warrior on the roster with significant experience at the varsity level is 6-6 junior Luke Gordon, who averaged 2.25 points per game as a sophomore.
“The sky is the limit for Luke,” Ostmeyer said. “He runs well and jumps well, and he’s got a lot of talent. It’s a matter of playing hard and playing consistently.
“He gained some experience last year, playing against favorable matchups. This year, he’ll have to do well even when the matchups aren’t great.”
The Warriors also have two junior letter-winners vying for time: 5-10 guard Mitchell Leppke and 6-1 forward Elliott Hett will both be thrown into expanded roles after two seasons on the junior varsity.
Sophomores Isaac Hett and Eric Vogel look set to round out the Marion rotation.
Facing a tough MCAA—a league that has at least five teams Ostmeyer thinks might finish ahead of his this season—the Warriors will face a steep climb.
But a difficult schedule is nothing new, and is especially not surprising after a season that saw the Warriors face the state champions from the 2A, 3A and 4A classifications in addition to the Mid-Central slate.
Among the MCAA’s top-flight programs are Wichita Collegiate, Hesston, Smoky Valley, Hoisington and Halstead—not to mention the rivalry with Hillsboro.
Winning games will be a challenge, but one that Ostmeyer thinks his team is going to embrace.
“There’s not one team on our schedule that we’re going to go pound simply because we’re better than they are—that’s just not going to happen this year,” Ostmeyer said. “We just need to play within our system. We should be pretty good defensively, and for us to be successful, our inexperienced players are going to have to play consistently at the varsity level.”