This team has an unusual makeup of One Senior and Twelve Juniors, along with a smattering of sophomores and the potential to have a few freshmen join in.
With the recent success of our football program, the word “Normal” describing pre-season basketball preparations has taken on a whole different meaning. I remember back in our Division III days where we would actually begin basketball practice on October 1st with a full compliment of players. That later changed to October 15th, when soccer began to factor in, and most recently with the success of our football program, having 11 or 12 players in the gym until Thanksgiving week has become our new normal. A year ago COVID moved everything back, and we didn’t start hoops practice until well into December, and this year with a football playoff loss on November 19th, we didn’t see our seven football/basketball Mustangs until a day before our second scheduled scrimmage and only three days prior to Green-White Night. This will well be an early season work in progress.
Coach Ken Shields, the highly successful high school coach at Highlands and then college coach at NKU, faced similar annual hurdles, but took the approach that it gave him some time to work with, and give the younger players some quality attention, and then by the time that the returning football players hit their best basketball stride they would begin that patented late-season run which resulted in his winning five 9th Region Championships.
The good news for our 2021-22 Mustangs is that nearly all of our returning juniors have previous varsity experience from a year ago. .
David Govan, is our lone senior and marquee player. He is a three year starter, having played in all 32 games his sophomore season putting up 198 points for the 25-7, 2019-20 Mustangs.
A year ago Govan saw action in 20 of our 24 games and was the team’s third leading scorer behind Stephen Verst and Carson Schirmer, putting 250 points on the scoreboard for an average of 12.5ppg. In doing so he shot a whopping 61% from the field. He was also our leading rebounder pulling down 7.6 boards per game, and was our leading shot blocker with 15 rejections.
Junior Mason Sepate emerged as a varsity impact player a year ago, scoring 171 points, earing him team’s fourth leading scorer spot. A reliable 3-Point shooter, Mason connected on 24 of 67 attempts, a 36% rate, and demonstrated what might be expected on Green-White night, nailing a trio of 3-Pointers. In addition to being a prolific scorer, Sepate led the team in steals with 33, and shot a blistering 84% from the free-throw line (21-25). Mason is one of our players who has benefitted by getting the extra practice minutes during this pre-season.
Logan Woosley had a fantastic summer and is our leading candidate to be the third starter behind Govan and Sepate. Wooz factored in 22 of our 24 varsity games a year ago and contributed in 12 early season JV contests.
Anthony Kruse and Brandon Bezold are pretty much 1 and 1A at this stage of the season. Both are capable ball-handlers and they both can drain the 3. They are also veterans of the varsity wars. Bezold factored in 23 varsity games a year ago, while going 15 of 17 from the charity stripe. He has been shooting lights out in the pre-season. The challenge will be to get him more appearances from the free-throw line. Kruse was the JV team’s third leading scorer, putting 78 points on the board for our 9-8 Junior Varsity team.
Junior Robbie Verst who was projected to occupy a starting guard role this season was lost to us for the season , sustaining knee damage early in the pre-season. He has since undergone surgery to repair the damage but will undergo a lengthy rehab and recovery costing him his Junior basketball season.
6’3″ Junior Luke Schumacher is this year’s team’s X-Factor. Despite being a junior, Luke has had a star-crossed past, having endured two knee surgeries, and missing the majority of his Sophomore season, playing in only 2 JV and 2 Varsity contests before reinjuring his knee, which required that second surgery.
Luke is playing with confidence and has had a productive pre-season and competed contentiously in both of our preseason scrimmages. If Luke can remain healthy he brings a lot of variables for Coach Code, in the ability to play alongside of big man, David Govan, or the ability to spell Govan and fill in as our post player. We will keep our fingers crossed that Luke has a break out season.
Sam Willike had a break out season last year, leading the JV team in the scoring category with 125 points, for an 8.3ppg average and earning him the JV Player of the Year distinction. Sam also gained valuable varsity experience by playing in 17 feature games. He has been in the conversation as a potential major varsity contributor for the 2021-22 Mustangs.
Evan Orth was the second leading scorer on the 9-8 JV Team a year ago behind Sam Willike. Orth scored 117 points for the JVs and also saw action in 12 varsity games Orth has the uncanny knack of being able to make something out of nothing and is a fan favorite.
Jack Poe will be another to give the 2021-22 Mustangs bench depth. He too, played in 13 JV games and 19 varsity contests where he shot 50% from the field, 50% from 3-Point range, and 89% from the field in short samples.
Juniors Nate Schalk, Lucas Steffen, and Luke Piscitello will add to the overall team bench depth. Don’t be surprised to see any of these three guys in the lineup during critical parts of varsity games this year. Schalk is still recovering from some giridiron ailments and will practice and play this year on a delayed basis. Lucas Steffen missed his entire Freshman season, and is only in his second season of high school competition. He has the bloodlines and the potential to be a varsity contributor. Nobody is going to work nor play harder than Luke Piscitello. He has already caught the attention of his coaches.
Sophomores Ryan Keller, Henry Goering (Not Pictured), Luke Schroeder, and Ryan Williamson will bolster the JV team, and round out the JV/Varsity roster. Alex Amin suffered a shoulder injury during football season and underwent surgery. He will forego his sophomore basketball season.
Don’t be surprised to see any of three high-potency Freshmen, Domyniq Hadden, Keegan Gulley, and Joe Schroeder “playing up” and factoring in both JV and Varsity competition.