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Minooka learning to mesh as long Indians' summer nears conclusion

Just like each of the past several seasons under coach Scott Tanaka, the Minooka basketball team has been playing non-stop for the last 30-plus days.

“We’ve been real busy. We’re probably playing into forty games now this summer,” Tanaka said on Wednesday at the 28th Annual Morris Shootout. “We have a lot of kids from last year that didn’t get a lot of playing time because we were pretty senior-laden. We’re made sure to get them a lot of game action this summer.”

That action includes playing every Tuesday and Thursday for the past month in a south suburban league, then going to shootouts in Oswego East, Joliet West and including an SPC Shootout before coming to Morris this week.

“After this we’re done,” Tanaka said. “We always finish with the Morris Shootout.”

“We’ve played a lot. I love it. The more basketball the better,” Minooka senior Jake Smith said. “This is always a good tournament to end on. There’s always real good talent here.”

Smith is one of several returning leaders that the Indians will be counting on for the coming season. He, Mark Geers, Adam Alexander and sophomore Joe Butler have regularly been in the Indians rotation this summer, at least at the start.

“The point guard has been in rotation,” Smith said. “We don’t really know who our starting point guard is going to be at this time. We have enough kids who can handle that spot, it’s just a matter of who wants it the most.”

Tanaka said that much is expected from those guys, as well as Butler.

“Guys like Mark Geers, Jake Smith, Adam Alexander, Cody Bresnahan, Mike Cappel. We had a bunch of juniors out who are very dedicated, kids that have come through our system and are seniors now. We expect a lot of big things out of them,” Tanaka said. “We also have Joe Butler. He’s a kid who started every game as a freshman and he’s coming back. We’re looking for all of those guys to improve and step up.”

It was a theme that Smith affirmed.

“We’re working hard this offseason and we are expecting kids to step up,” he said. “From last year we lost a bunch of seniors, so the focus is working hard and stepping up your game.”

To do that, many different kids wearing Minooka orange jerseys have seen time this summer.

“We’re looking to do some different things this summer. We’re going to be able to play 10 guys,” Tanaka said. “I’m pretty sure that we are going to have a strong bench. When you play 10 guys, you can play more of an up-temp style game both offensively and defensively.”

“Coach has been getting everyone in. Summer league is for giving people playing time and there’s less emphasis on winning,” Smith said.

Which may make for a slow transition as the Indians adjust to losing so many key players from last-year’s team.

“It’s going to be hard to get used to as first. But if you keep playing together as a team, you’re going to get used to it and figure stuff out,” Smith said. “The start of the season might be a little rough, but we’ll eventually get used to playing with each other over time. I think we’ll be successful by the end.”

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