By Kris Millsfirstname.lastname@example.org
CHARLOTTESVILLE — A roster filled with sophomores and juniors would usually concern a varsity head coach, but not Eastern Hancock’s Aaron Spaulding.
Even without a single senior, the Royals return a healthy chunk of experienced players from last season’s 7-16 team, including three starters.
Junior guard Addison True was named an Indiana Basketball Coaches Association (IBCA) Top 100 Underclassmen last season as a sophomore after averaging a team-high 16.1 points and 7.0 rebounds per game.
Classmates A.J. Muegge (12.9 ppg) and Duncan Cherry (8.4 ppg) are also back and add athleticism and shooting depth to a team that won’t have any problem getting up and down the floor. Muegge made 34 threes a season ago. Cherry added 20 while True finished with 45.
“Anytime you can return that type of experience, it is a major plus,” Spaulding said, who enters his 19th season with the program.
Eastern Hancock lost three seniors from 2016, including stretch big man Tom Barton, who contributed 6.8 ppg. Fellow senior Ryan Speas led the team with 59 made threes and was third on the team in scoring at 9.8 ppg.
Expected to start this season, in addition to Muegge, True and Cherry, will be varsity newcomer Brycen Napier and Jacob Eischen, a 6-foot-2 center. That unit gives Spaulding an all-junior starting five.
But the talent doesn’t end there. Sophomore Peyton Gray stands 6-foot-6 and will come off the bench — as will sophomore shooter Tyler Castle. Forward Tyler Blattner, another junior, made 11 threes last season and will also contribute off the bench.
“Brycen Napier will be a big addition for us at the point,” Spaulding said. “Peyton Gray gives us some great size and Tyler Castle has the ability to come in and hit shots off the bench.”
The amount of skill level gives Spaulding several options, he said. The Royals won’t just be a 3-point shooting team — or one that lives and dies by pounding the ball inside the paint.
“We want to be able to play at different tempos,” Spaulding said. “Sometimes, we will want to get out and run and other times, we will want to be patient. It will depend on the circumstances.”
Fortunately, the Royals have the personnel to do both.
Last season, Eastern Hancock made 186 shots from behind the arc at a 36 percent clip. It also shot 77 percent from the free throw line and 48 percent from 2-point range.
True also led the team in assists and steals at 3.0 and 2.4 per game, respectively. Mixed with Napier and Muegge, who is capable of warming up in a hurry, the Royals will possess one of the most dangerous back court trios in Class 2A.
And although Eastern Hancock should have little trouble scoring this season, Spaulding said his team’s success will rely on stopping opponents from scoring at will. The Royals, with the amount of size and speed on the roster, will — and can — play a mixture of defenses.
“This summer we really focused on improving defensively,” Spaulding said. “We will mix it up playing man and zone, both in the half and full court. How we defend will be the key to the success of our team.”
Eastern Hancock opens its season on Wednesday at Centerville. The Royals will play rivals New Palestine on Nov. 26 and Knightstown on Dec. 16.
2016-17 Projected Starting Five
12.9 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 34 made threes
16.1 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 45 made threes
8.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg
0.9 ppg, 1.6 rpg
OFF THE BENCH: Tyler Castle, JR. (Guard); Peyton Grey, SO. (Center); Skyler Schrope, SO. (Guard); Tyler Blattner, JR. (Forward); Luke Splater, JR. (Forward); Trey Bittinger, SO. (Forward); Brady Stephens, SO. (Forward).
188-189 in 18th year at school
Brett Bechtel, Tim Retherford, Joe Paxton and Ryan McCarty