NEW PALESTINE — Creating.
It was Josh Penley’s specialty on the basketball court, and more than once last winter he bailed out his New Palestine teammates with an impromptu drive to the basket after a play broke down, taking the ball all the way to the hoop or dishing to an open man on the perimeter.
Penley graduated not long after helping the Dragons win a Class 4A sectional title March 3 and, although New Palestine returns leading scorer and Hancock County Player of the Year Michael Morris, Penley’s unique skills won’t be easily matched in the 2012-13 season.
“We lost some athleticism at the 2,” NP assistant coach Trent Whitaker said of Penley’s shooting guard spot. “The guys got tired of hearing it this summer, but coach (Adam) Barton kept reminding them that Josh isn’t going to be around anymore to take care of things when things go bad.
“Someone else is going to have to step up.”
Whitaker, speaking for head coach Adam Barton while Barton is on a vacation cruise this week, said that it will be up to Morris, a 6-foot-6 forward, to become an even more dominant presence in the absence of Penley (11.7 points per game) and Reid Clark (8.5 ppg), who also graduated. Penley led the team in steals and assists, while Clark was the top rebounder.
Morris netted 15.3 points and 6.2 boards last season on 61 percent shooting from 2-point range and 41 percent from long distance. With that kind of touch, the NP coaching staff wants Morris to be more aggressive.
“Michael is going to have to be the guy,” Whitaker said of Morris, who is being recruited by DePauw, among other schools. “He’s going to have to score more, and that’s not something he’s always been comfortable with.
“But I think he learned this summer that we really need him to be more assertive.”
It’s won’t all be on Morris’ shoulders, however.