MINOOKA — To say last year’s Minooka boys basketball team was successful is an understatement. For the first time in 35 years, the boys managed to win 20 games in the season. They also finished second in Southwest Prairie Conference play to Plainfield East, a team that was ranked in the top 10 in the state all year.
“It was great to finally achieve success last year,” head coach Scott Tanaka said. “We had a group of guys that really bought into what we were doing and it was really nice for them to see the success that they had.”
Although quite successful, the team didn’t reach some of its goals on the year. It failed to win a tournament all year, and was eliminated in the first game of the regional semifinals by Sandburg. Despite all the new-found success Minooka achieved last year, there is room for improvement heading into the 2012-13 campaign.
“Twenty wins was really big for us last year and a huge accomplishment, but we’re hoping to build upon that and make it something normal rather than happening every 35 years,” Tanaka said.
It’s going to be a tough road for the Indians this season, as they lose four of their top six guys last year in Ben Heide, Lavell Dean, Adam Reynolds and Nick Casmir-Lang to graduation. With those four gone, the Indians lose over half of their scoring production from a season ago, which is going to be tough to replace.
“Whenever you lose big pieces to your team, you can never really replace them,” Tanaka said. “You just hope that your younger guys or your juniors coming back as seniors can come back and buy in to what we’re doing just like how they did last year.”
Despite some big losses, the Indians do have two main starters coming back this year in seniors Jake Hogen and Darrin Myers. Both have been main contributors to the varsity squad since their sophomore year and look to use their experience to help Minooka this season.
“The more you play, the more you learn about the game,” Hogen said. “So I just want to help the younger guys by telling them just how tough the game is. One little thing can change an entire game, so I want to stress to them that every rebound and loose ball is important.”
“I’m going to try and lead by example this year, but also be more vocal on the court,” Myers added. “I just want the guys to know that I’m willing to do anything to win.”
One of the big questions heading into the season is the inexperience of the big men. For the past two years, both Reynolds and Dean were staples down low for the Indians. The leading candidate to replace either Reynolds or Dean is junior Mark Geers. Geers is the tallest guy on the team at 6-6 and one of the few post players Minooka has offensively.
“Those two (Reynolds and Dean) were a big loss, but I think we have good big men coming up,” Myers said. “I think Geers can really fill one of those two spots down low for us.”
With only two starters coming back, it seems Minooka will rely on a more “team” mentality. Players like seniors Adam Holstine and Perry Jones as well as juniors Jake Smith and Adam Alexander will play big roles in the success of the Indians this year.
“If guys like Darrin and I start taking charges and doing everything that role players are supposed to do, I think the guys around us will be more willing to do that stuff,” Hogen said.
Overall, Minooka wants to keep on continuing their success and prove that last year was no fluke.
“Our goals every year are to win 20 games, advance far in the playoffs and do well in a holiday tournament,” Tanaka said. “If we just go out there and remain hungry as a program I think we’ll keep on seeing the success.”