GREENFIELD — Under head coach Luke Meredith, the Greenfield-Central boys basketball team continues to climb the ladder of success.
Meredith took over a team that had won just 11 games total over the previous two seasons. In 2019-20, the Cougars got to .500, finishing 12-12, by winning eight of the final 13 games. Two of the losses came to sectional champions, Mt. Vernon and Plainfield.
Last season, the Cougars ended the year 14-10. They beat rival New Palestine in a first-round sectional matchup, avenging a regular-season loss, and reached the sectional semi-finals before losing to the Marauders.
Upward and onward are the plans for the 2021-22 group.
“We improved by two games,” junior point guard Dylan Moles said. “We want to keep building on that and keep playing hard and see where it takes us.
“It’s definitely the most skilled team we’ve had compared to my freshman and sophomore years. We’re the hungriest team, too. After last year winning the first game (of the sectional) and then getting blown out by Mt. Vernon, we definitely got a taste of winning and we want some more.”
Moles is 6-3 and a three-year starter, the team’s most experienced player. He led G-C with a 14.2 scoring average. He also added a team-best 3.2 assists and 2.0 steals per game to go with 3.2 rebounds.
Three seniors saw considerable time a year ago, led by Adam Lester (6-2), who returns for a final campaign after averaging 9.4 points and 3.2 rebounds last year.
Seniors Joey Roland (6-1) and Rashawn Street (6-0) will have increased roles after being key players off the bench. Roland is the top returning rebounder at 3.8 per contest. He also averaged 5.4 points. Street averaged 3.3 points.
Another senior expected to be a big contributor is Rune Carpenter-Jones (6-0), a transfer student from Indianapolis International Charter School.
Carpenter-Jones will be among a number of varsity newcomers Meredith and the Cougars will rely on.
Heading that list is impressive 6-4 freshman Braylon Mullins, who has already received a Division-I offer from IUPUI.
“Braylon will start from Day 1,” Meredith said. “We’ll be leery of how much we put on his shoulders. Freshmen will go through some peaks and valleys. He can shoot it. He’s 6-4. He can handle it. He’s smart and doesn’t get too high or too low. He’s going to be a really good basketball player.”
Junior Tyler Kerkhof, who played last year on the junior varsity, should provide some help off the bench along with 6-3 sophomore Braden Robertson, 6-3 junior Will DeJarnett and a pair of 6-0 juniors in Owen Anderson and Nathan Gaspirrini.
Dallas Freeman, at 6-4, is another freshman listed on the varsity roster.
Meredith said it’s a talented group, but he believes the Cougars will have a lot of work ahead to compete nightly in a strong Hoosier Heritage Conference and sectional that boasts some of the area’s top teams.
Hard work and hustle and the motto, “Juice,” has been the mantra of the Meredith-coached G-C teams.
He expects that to continue with this year’s club.
“If the last two years are the standard of how hard Greenfield-Central plays, we have to continue to play that hard,” Meredith said. “We talk all the time, if you’re going to pay $6 to come watch us play in our community, we better make sure they get their money’s worth. We talk about diving on the floor, hustling on and off the court, communicating, playing with toughness, being physical. You don’t just do that. The process is doing that in practice, and hopefully that will show up in games. It doesn’t come easy.”
Added Moles: “It’s going to take a full buy-in from everyone every day at practice. We have to play hard and keep doing what we’re doing and hope it comes out the right way.”
Greenfield-Central opens its season on Tuesday, Nov. 23, at Beech Grove. It was recently announced that the game will include a presentation of a traveling trophy to the winner in memory of Matt English, the former BG coach and G-C standout, who died of cancer in 2018.
English was a G-C basketball player from 1988-91 and coached basketball for the Hornets from 2008-18.
Following the Beech Grove game, G-C plays its first home game Dec. 3 against Hagerstown. The first HHC game is at county rival New Palestine on Dec. 10.
“I’m excited for this group,” Meredith added. “Every year is a new year, new journey. We have a lot of guys back to build that camaraderie and what we did last year. I love coaching here at Greenfield with these kids. They’re good kids. They fit me, playing that underdog role, with a chip on their shoulder.”