“Unruh is probably our best defender right now,” O’Neal said. “He’s one of the hardest workers in practice we’ve got, day in and day out.”
Loucks is set to have a strong season—and the Warriors will make the most of his contributions in the low post.
“Andrew Loucks needs to be able to give us a lot of minutes in the post and stay out of foul trouble,” O’Neal said. “He should have a good season for us.”
Nathan Bishop, a 6-0 senior guard, brings athleticism to both ends of the floor, having averaged 6.7 points and three steals per game a season ago.
“Nathan Bishop has the potential to be really good this year,” O’Neal said.
Adam Benson, the team’s “most inspirational player” in O’Neal’s view, is a 6-1 senior forward.
Trevor Hamm will play at forward. The 6-0 senior averaged just under 7 points per game in addition to an effective 2006-07 on the glass.
“Hamm is a good leader with a good work ethic,” O’Neal said.
The team’s sixth senior is foreign exchange student Alex Bengston.
“How much he plays will depend on how fast he develops,” O’Neal said.
PBHS will also have a pair of non-seniors in its rotation: 6-4 junior Jake Middleton will see time at forward, while 6-1 sophomore Jacob Simmonds will spell Unruh at point guard.
“Jake Middleton is more of a forward than a post even though he’s 6-4,” O’Neal said. “He’s a really good outside shooter.”
Simmonds has a knack for dialing up defensive pressure, a quality the Warriors value very highly this year.
Brian Wingert and Aaron Topham will also contribute to the varsity this year.
“Our defense needs to be the strongest part of our team—if we play defense as a team rather than individuals, that will make offense easier for us,” O’Neal said. “Patience on offense and playing defense as a team are the parts of the game we’ll have to work hardest at.”
The present edition of the Warriors has “a lot of potential,” O’Neal said. “It’s a matter of whether or not they’ll reach that potential as a team.”
The group is close-knit and has, as a whole, faced few attitude problems.
“With the exception of Loucks, our seniors have played together significant minutes since their eighth grade year,” O’Neal said.
Still, although familiarity and continuity are points in their favor, wins may not come easily.
“Individually, we have very good athletes,” O’Neal said. “We simply have to come together.
“The potential for them to do well as a team is there—and we simply haven’t gotten to the point of playing up to that potential as a team,” he noted.
“If we get there this season, it’ll be a lot of fun.”
Peabody-Burns opens at at Inman, and faces a tough schedule, especially before the new year.
“You like to say that it’s good to play tough teams early in the season, to have your weaknesses exposed before the Christmas break, so you know exactly what you need to work on,” O’Neal said.
“I don’t think there will be an easy game out of any of them. If you’re not playing well, they’ll beat you.”