New coach, three seniors will lead Marion boys this year

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MHSboysPB250448.jpg

Seniors Luke Gordon, Mitchell Leppke and Elliott Hett (from left) will lead the Marion boys? team this winter under the tutelage of new coach Jeff McMillen.

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Marion?s Luke Gordon shoots for two points against Lyons last season. ?He can be a force for us inside if he works there first,? says first-year coach Jeff McMillen.

With a new coach taking the reins, plus the graduation of top scorers Calvin Jeffrey and Justin Heidebrecht, the Marion High School boys? basketball team may face a rebuilding year.

But new coach Jeff McMillen will retain a handful of the major contributors from last year?s team in his first season with the Warriors.

In 6-foot-6 senior Luke Gordon, McMillen has the single biggest member of the 2007 roster at his disposal.

?Luke is a tall kid, long arms, about 6-6, and he?s got a good shooting touch,? McMillen said. ?I?ve told him, not that I don?t want him to take jump shots, but that I want him to work from the inside out.

?He can be a force for us inside if he works there first,? he added. ?Where we can get into trouble is if he floats around the perimeter and looks for the outside shot first.?

In seniors Elliot Hett and Mitchell Leppke, McMillen also has one of the team?s most energetic forwards and a point guard who split time with graduated point man Chase Carlson last year.

Leppke is still recovering from a hand injury he sustained late in the football season.

?He?s actually pretty far ahead of schedule?he?s not 100 percent, but he?s been practicing,? McMillen said. ?He?s going to be back sooner rather than later.

?Mitchell brings a lot of energy, and every coach wants an extension of himself on the floor in the form of a point guard, and he does a good job with that,? he added. ?He brings fire to the team?he?s an emotional leader who does a lot of valuable things that aren?t stat-sheet things.?

With Leppke recovering, Drew Maddox has gained experience running the point in McMillen?s practices.

?Drew is a guy who goes out and does everything exactly how we want him to do it,? McMillen said. ?He?s a stickler for the details, and when we introduce new concepts to the team, he?s usually the first one to pick up on it.

?And he gets the other guys to do what we want, and that?s very valuable in my eyes,? he said.

Elliot Hett and junior Isaac Hett will be the team?s other guards.

?Elliot is really athletic, and he gets to his spots quickly,? McMillen said. ?He has really long arms.?

?They are similar in some ways, but they?re really different players,? he added. ?Isaac is more of a back-to-the-basket type of player, and Elliot is a little quicker around the perimeter.?

One junior who made major contributions to last year?s squad also figures to be in the starting lineup Monday night: Eric Vogel.

?Eric is very good in the classroom, and he?s one of the two guys we have who started last year,? McMillen said. ?He?s very steady, tough around the basket, and a good finisher around the basket despite not being very tall. He?s really a good post player.?

McMillen said two juniors coming off the bench have impressed so far: Maddox and Brian Fruechting.

?Brian is a post player, shorter for a post player, but he?s got a strong body, and he?s been doing what we?ve asked him,? McMillen said.

Several others?Wil Case, Adam Maag, Mitch Cady and Brady Hudson?have also caught McMillen?s eye.

?They?re juniors that I want to play a role and get comfortable with the system and improve a lot,? he said. ?They?re guys I don?t want to put too much pressure on this year, but to get ready so that next year, they?ll be able to take a natural step forward?fill a void this year and be ready next year.?

Marion will emphasize fundamentals, rebounding and tough defense, McMillen said.

?We?re spending a lot of time on fundamentals. Our main goal is to try to out-rebound our opponents. If you can point to one stat that helps you succeed, it?s rebounding.?

McMillen also indicated the Warriors will play a methodical style.

?If we have breakaway baskets, we?ll take those?we?re going to take what the defense gives us. But when they?re set, we?ll also set up and look for a good shot,? he said.

McMillen gained his three years of experience as head coach at Pratt prior to this season.

?They are good kids making a good effort to learn what I?m trying to teach them,? he said. ?We?ll have our rough spots, definitely. But my main thing is going to be to get them to fight through those rough spots and continue to get better.?

Marion opens against Peabody-Burns Dec. 8. The Warriors are hosting their first preseason tournament with Eureka, Belle Plaine, Oxford, Remington, Leon Blue?stem and Berean Academy joining the eight-team field.

The boys? championship game will be played at 8:15 p.m. Dec. 13.

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