HILLSBORO HS- Trojan boys have the talent to be formidable again

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
When high school coaches lose 61 percent of a team’s point production to graduation, they can’t be blamed for wondering if the following year might be a struggle.

That’s not the case for Hillsboro High School coach Darrel Knoll, who’s been in that situation several times through his 18 years at HHS-and still averages 20 wins a season.

Knoll has high hopes for this year’s squad, too.

“It’s the same story-every year you graduate people, and sometimes everybody,” he said. “We’ve been fortunate to find guys who have worked hard enough on their game to go ahead and pick up the pace.

“That’s where this team is right now. I think we have good potential; we just have to go out there and play ball.”

Knoll has reasons to be optimistic.

First, last year’s team was very good, finishing with the fourth-best win-loss percentage of any Knoll team at 21-2. He has two quality starters returning from that squad and four more players who saw action in at least 17 games.

Second, he has talent emerging from a junior varsity team that went 17-2 a year ago.

Third, this year’s squad may have the most height of any team Knoll has fielded during his tenure, with two returners at a muscular 6-foot-3, one at 6-4 and one at 6-5.

Fourth, and certainly not least, Knoll’s players expect to win.

“It’s one of those things where we don’t expect to walk out and not be good,” said the Trojan coach, who has three state titles on his resume. “I think you sell yourself short if you approach the game with that kind of attitude.”

“Every year we expect to play the best we can,” he added. “We have a couple of guys who are quality varsity players who have good experience. Then we have some young guys coming up with some good skills.

“If we can put them all together, and if we compete hard-just play the game the way we want to play it-we have a really good chance of being very competitive.”

Returning starters

Knoll’s two returning starters, senior Kyle Kroeker and junior Lucas Hamm, create a solid core for this year’s team.

Kyle Kroeker, an honorable-mention all-league pick at guard, broke into the starting lineup early in the season and went on to average 10.1 points a game. He shot 47.8 percent shooting from the floor, including 35.9 percent from behind the 3-point arc (28-78).

As a junior, he averaged 1.8 steals, 1.7 assists, 2.1 rebounds and only 1.4 turnovers.

“Kyle really played well last year,” Knoll said. “He’s an excellent outside shooter and is really good at playing the passing lanes on defense. He has a good feel for the game.

“I think he’ll be the kind of player who will give us good leadership and brings good experience to the game.”

Lucas Hamm, meanwhile, brings strength, agility and determination to the inside game. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound forward, averaged 8.6 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.9 steals and 1.5 assists last season as a sophomore.

“Lucas is a great rebounder, he plays extremely hard, he’s a good competitor and he’s got good varsity experience,” Knoll said. “So we’re expecting him to once again take a good role on the team and be one of the guys who’s leading us.”

Seniors returning

High on the list of candidates to join those two in the starting lineup are four seniors:

  • Wade Weibert, a 6-5, 252-pound post player who saw action in 19 games last season and made his best contributions late in the season.

    “Wade really came on at the end of last year,” Knoll said. “It’s just a matter of him picking up where he left off last year.”

  • Macy Fadenrecht, a 5-9 guard who saw action in every varsity contest a year ago.

    “He’s one of the guys who might be able to run point for us,” Knoll said. “He’s got good skills. We just need to work on him taking that point-guard leadership role, which I think he’ll be able to do.

  • Adam Scheele, a 6-3 forward, played in 17 games last season.

    “Scheele’s one of the most athletic guys on our team,” Knoll said. “He’s got a nice shot. It’s one of those things where he should be able to provide some good minutes for us.”

  • Peter Fast, a 6-5 center, played in 18 games.

    “Peter’s pretty long,” Knoll said. “He’s got the ability to alter shots inside and he’s been working harder on posting up. He’s got the kind of body that could really provide some good interior play for us.

    “Between Wade and him, we should be able to have a pretty good inside game this year.”

Knoll identified four juniors who have an opportunity to make an impact on varsity after a strong junior-varsity season last year: Darren Enns, a 6-3 post player; Nate Holmes, a 5-10 guard; Troy Frick, a 6-2 forward, and Aaron Stepanek, a 5-9 guard.

Team outlook

Success on the court begins with defense, Knoll said.

“If we start by playing good defense and eliminate the other team’s ability to score, we’ll be good enough to win games,” he said.

Knoll looks for long-time rival Wichita Collegiate to be the team to beat in the Mid-Central Activities Association-and perhaps the post-season. The Spartans are back in Class 3A this season.

“Lyons has everybody back, so they should be pretty good again, too. Those are probably the two teams in our league that are going to give everybody a run for it.”

The Trojans will open the season Dec. 6 against Abilene in the first round of the six-team Dickinson County Classic.

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