|St. John’s boys tip off hardwood action tonight|
|Friday, December 13, 2013 9:15 PM|
By JIM METCALFE
DELPHOS — St. John’s boys basketball coach Aaron Elwer had a superb season in 2012-13, taking the Blue Jays to their first Division IV Regional final since the State championship year of 2001-02.
The dream ended at the hands of Troy Christian in the Kettering Fairmont Regional finals, ending at 18-5.
When the final gun sounded, that also ended the scholastic cage careers of several key contributors, such as four-year lettermen and 3-year starter Curtis Geise (19.7 points, 5.9 boards, 2.8 assists, 1.8 steals per game), 3-year letterman Ryan Buescher (11.3 markers, 7.5 caroms, 3.3 assists, 2.0 steals) and center Seth Bockey (5.3 counters, 3.0 rebounds) for a unit that scored at a 57.7-points-per-game click and ceded 46.8.
As well, Cole Fischbach (.5 points) used up his eligibility a year ago.
Elwer once more faces an abbreviated pre-season with his full team as the football team once again made a long trek in the OHSAA football playoffs — the Division VII State semifinals.
“That’s a concern: we are so far behind most everybody else with practices, preparation and scrimmages. Especially with the new guys to varsity, we are going to have to learn on the fly and improve faster on a daily basis,” Elwer began. “When you think of it, our opening foe — Van Wert — will be playing their fifth game tonight, while this is our opener. Another concern is a lack of experience off the bench. We have some candidates but it likely will take 5-10 games for us to really figure out what we have off the bench. They are all going to have to contribute in some way.
“A third concern is our relative lack of height, strength and physicality. The last two are very important when you look at our schedule, inside the Midwest Athletic Conference and outside; it gets very physical andf you have to be able to stand up to that. ”
Those include seniors Ben Wrasman, Aaron Hellman and Jake Csukker and juniors Alex Odenweller and Austin Heiing.
However, all is not lost for the Blue Jay head man as he returns five full-time lettermen — the probable starting lineup for tonight’s season-opening home contest versus long-time archrival Van Wert — to build around, including a pair of returning starters in senior sharpshooter Ryan Koester (6.8 points; 35-of-86 3-pointers) and senior point guard Eric Clark (6.8 markers, 2.9 dimes).
As well, a trio of experienced juniors include Andy Grothouse (4.4 counters, 2.3 caroms), Evan Hays (1.8 markers, 1.2 assists) and 6-6 Tyler Conley (.8 counters).
“Those guys give us a lot of experience in tough situations and tough environments. We are expecting them to really help us out, especially early, in leading this team,” Elwer continued. “They bring a high skill level, as well as a high IQ in terms of basketball. They have put in the time to improve those skills. When you combine those elements, you expect some good things out of them.
“Despite that, for us, it still starts with defense. You don’t necessarily have to be a highly-skilled player to play defense; you just have to be willing to give great effort and make the hustle plays. It’s easier to put that end together. We’ll need defense and those hustle plays to carry us until we can get everybody caught up.
“We’re excited to start the season. As always, there are high expectations coming into the season. We’ve got a long ways to go and we have to take positive steps every day to get where we want to go.”
In addition to tonight’s opener, the Jays host another long-time archrival, Elida, Tuesday.