ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
With better team health and chemistry, Hillsboro boys’ coach Darrel Knoll believes his squad will improve on last season’s disappointing 13-9 season.
For the first time in three seasons, the Trojans opened practice with everyone healthy coming off the fall football season.
“When you’re body’s not healthy, it’s hard to play basketball up to the ability that you otherwise can,” said Knoll, who is starting his 14th season at the Trojan helm. “Sometimes it’s even hard to like the sport because the season’s long and it takes a toll on your body. But I think the guys seem a little more ready to play from a physical standpoint.”
Knoll believes this year’s team also is mentally healthier after struggling much of last season.
“One of the emphases we have this year is developing our chemistry,” Knoll said. “That will probably be the key for the whole season. I think most of the players realize that chemistry was something we missed last year. In order for us to be successful, we need to have it.”
This winter, Trojans will be without the services of Grant Brubacher, the team’s leading scorer (13.9 points per game), playmaker and only All-MCAA selection. Also gone through graduation are starters Jeremy Loewen (6.4 ppg) and Nathan Fish (4.0 ppg).
But Knoll feels this year’s squad, by emphasizing speed and team play, will improve on last season’s scoring average of 49.3 points per game-only the third Knoll team to average under 60 points a game.
“I felt last year we weren’t balanced at all,” Knoll said. “I do not want that to happen again. I don’t people to think that only one or two guys can score on this team.
“By the same token, I don’t want (players) thinking everybody should score the same amount,” he added. “Anybody can shoot the ball at any time. But they have to understand what shot is good for them, look for that shot, and then take it when it’s open.”
Knoll said fans should look for a faster-paced game this season.
“We’re hoping to speed the game up this year,” he added. “I don’t especially prefer the slow-down 40-some-points-a-game effort. Last year I wanted us to run the floor, but there was so much else going on.”
One key to the Trojans’ effectiveness on offense will be the play of Tyler Weinbrenner. The 5-8 junior guard averaged 7.4 points last season and may be the team’s best pure shooter as well as being extremely quick on the floor.
“I think if the situation had been right, Weinbrenner would have scored more last year than he did,” Knoll said. “He had several games where he scored in the upper teens. He’s got the capability to put the ball in the hole.”
Another key will be the improved play of Layne Frick, a 6-3 senior who averaged four points and a team-leading five rebounds.
“So far I’ve been really impressed with Layne,” Knoll said. “He’s come out playing really hard in practice. I think he’s trying to assert himself as a leader from that standpoint. I think he understands it’s his last year in high school to play basketball, and he wants to do really well.
“If Layne and some of the other seniors can play with that kind of attitude, that will help everybody, because our team will come together a little bit more.”
Two other key seniors are Adam Woods, a strong 6-3 post who won a starting position last season and averaged 3.4 points and 2.9 rebounds, and Ross Duerksen, a 6-2 guard who averaged 3.3 points and 1.4 assists.
“(Woods) has a great attitude,” Knoll said. “He’s working hard. He’s coming to play every day. I think he’s willing to do whatever it takes to win.”
Knoll said juniors Shawn Hughbanks, a 6-1 forward, Andy Brubacher, a 5-11 junior guard with two years of varsity experience under his belt, and Dustin Jost, a 5-11 guard, all have the ability to score, too.
“What it’s going to come down to is taking the right shots,” Knoll said. “But I think all of those guys are capable of putting points on the board. The key is taking the right shot and playing unselfishly.”
Knoll said several other players could contribute at the varsity level as the year progresses, including Adam Driggers, a 6-3 senior, Steven Chisholm, a 6-2 junior, and Tyler Peachey, a 6-2 sophomore.
“Tyler Peachey is playing really well in practice,” Knoll said. “He’s grown some, and he’s the kind of guy who could come in and help us do some things, although I’m not planning to play him a lot early.”
On the defensive end, Knoll said his team will feature the usual tenacity that enabled last year’s squad to hold opponents to a shade over 43 points a game.
“We’ve got good quickness,” he said. “Right now, we just need to work on rebounding a lot. That’s one of our goals. Last year, I think we were one of the poorer rebounding teams in our league, and the year before we were close to that. We need to look at holding people to as few boards as possible, and also get more for ourselves-especially if we’re not shooting well.
“That’s one thing that will be key for us, whether we can rebound.”
Knoll believes Hesston of the Central Division will be the team to beat this season. But if this year’s squad will play together and follow his instruction, the Trojans have a solid chance of winning the Mid Division-especially with heavy graduation losses at Halstead, the defending Class 3A state champion, and at Wichita Collegiate. He’s also hopeful about post-season prospects.
“If they start listening to what everybody else thinks, then all of a sudden they have all kinds of different ideas, and we don’t play together, and we don’t win,” he said.
“I think we have enough guys who want to do really well that it shows,” Knoll added. “That’s where it all starts.”
Seniors: Layne Frick, Ross Duerksen, Jonathan Regier, Adam Driggers, Adam Woods, Peter Richert.
Juniors: Andy Brubacher, Eric Bartel, Tyler Weinbrenner, Dustin Jost, Steven Chisholm, Ben Walker, Alan Yoder, Shawn Hughbanks.
Sophomores: Derek Conrad, Derek Mayfield, Aaron Yoder, Kyle Jilka, Brodie Unrau, Jared Fish, Aaron Miller, Tyler Peachey, Luke Lilly, Michael Bookless, Toby Berg.
Freshmen: Tyler Goldsby, Daniel Deckert, Kody Borg, Dustin Harber, Eric Weinbrenner, Derek Hamm.