FORTVILLE — After recently purchasing a home in Fortville, Travis Daugherty has been using his free time in the summer to rehabilitate his new purchase.
It’s not unlike the process Daugherty undertook during his first season heading the Mt. Vernon boys basketball team, though the hardwood modifications were hardly expected.
On paper, last winter’s Marauders could’ve made for an odd mix but would have had a very talented team. Three of five starters from a 2012-13 unit that finished 24-2, claimed sectional and regional titles, and was ranked No. 1 in the state, were supposed to return. Depth would be provided by a group of inexperienced but gifted underclassmen.
But following suspensions, player defection and a key injury, MV was forced to go young and finished 9-14 – under .500 for just the second time in seven seasons.
“It was a different year than what many of us probably expected,” said Daugherty, a former Tipton and Chatard coach. “That’s also part of the game sometimes; things don’t always go the way you think they will. Some of the off-the-court stuff had a significant impact on our overall record and the way the year played out, but I also think it gave some guys an opportunity to step in and get some valuable experience that I think can be a real benefit to our team and program moving forward.”
It’s clear where Mt. Vernon’s future lies, and that’s with three incoming sophomores (point guard Michael Ertel, swingman James McCloud, forward Erick Shepherd) and two juniors-to-be (forward Michael Thompson, guard Miles Wayer). Those five will likely comprise Daugherty’s starting lineup. And even though all five flashed significant potential in receiving major varsity minutes in 2013-14, Daugherty said a key ingredient is still missing.
“We’ve got a fairly talented group of guys, but we’re going to have to figure out what (Class) 4A competition, 4A toughness and 4A competitiveness is about if we’re really going to be a good team,” said Daugherty, whose Marauders played in a 4A sectional for the first time last year. “That was our biggest inconsistency during the summer. That will be the most critical element in determining what kind of year we have.”
In June, the Marauders played in a summer league at Fishers Fieldhouse, partook in a shootout at Purdue and participated in a USSFA state tournament. Since the calendar has turned to July, Ertel, McCloud and Shepherd have returned to their EG10 AAU team. This week, the trio has been playing at locations around Indianapolis in the highly competitive Adidas Invitational.
Of the core five, it’s no secret who the centerpiece is, and that’s the six-foot-four Shepherd, who averaged 10.5 points and 5.8 rebounds in the team’s first 11 games before missing the rest of the campaign for academic reasons.
“He’s progressed. Any time you have a player with a ceiling as high as his, there’s a sense of pressure to really want to maximize his potential as quickly as possible,” Daugherty said of Shepherd, who attended the University of Michigan’s elite camp in June. “He had some games during the summer where he was without a doubt the best player on the floor; other times he wasn’t as good. He’s our most talented player. I think for him the next step is consistently proving to us he’s really being a competitor and a fighter every time the ball goes up.”
Shepherd’s mild-mannered nature is conducive to keeping his cool on the court while he jostles for position and rebounds near the basket, but Daugherty would like to see more assertiveness when the situation calls for it.
“It’s a little more challenging because it’s not his nature to be as demonstrative or outgoing when it comes to demanding the ball or taking over a game,” Daugherty said. “I think it takes a certain personality to do what needs to be done.”
Heading into his second year, Daugherty is also relieved to not have go through the same ‘new coach routine’ as he did last summer.
“That’s the biggest difference. Sometimes it’s hard to overstate how different it is when you have a year under your belt,” he said. “You know the guys; they know you. You’ve been through a lot together. You develop a trust that comes with working together. They have a familiarity with our system and what we depend on. Those things are much more ingrained than they were a year ago.”
Notes: Junior varsity coach Kyle Nicholson left the program to take a job at Benton Central. Otherwise, the 2013-14 staff is intact with varsity assistants Jake Hoffman and Jason Young as well as freshmen coach John Coons. … With the IHSAA permitting two extra regular-season games to be scheduled, Daugherty said Beech Grove and Decatur Central were tentatively being added to the team’s docket. … Thompson and Wayer play on the same AAU team.