Last season the Montgomery County varsity boys basketball team played an incredibly wide-open style, and with good reason.
Now that Chase Parrish, Logan Henke and Brendan Thier have graduated, that approach may not be what suits the talent this squad currently possesses. Instead, new head coach Scott Kroeger has a rather unique way of approaching the situation that's based on all the time he's spent running hoops clinics and individual workouts. While he may be young, the expectations have been set high for the Wildcats and that starts with Kroeger doing what he does best.
"Lofty goals are accompanied by big responsibilities and defense is a major one. Chase is going to be difficult to replace. He scored over 2,000 points in his career, which is good for the all-time leader in Montgomery County history. His career culminated in an All-State selection by the (Missouri Basketball Coaches Association)," said Kroeger. "Thier and Henke were role players and helped with leadership. The team was sort of position-less last season, except for Aubrey Nelson at point guard."
Because Nelson scored about 18 points per game last season and has over 1,000 for his career, he'll definitely be looked to in order to fill the void on offense losing Parrish created. His ability to play the wing should prove valuable, as well, but there's just no way he can do it all by himself.
"We have a great nucleus of returning seniors, plus some new possible contributors to the varsity. We return Corey Kroll, a senior guard/forward hybrid who can knock down open shots and rebounds very well and has good athleticism," Kroeger said. "Tim Hall is a senior guard who has tremendous length and athleticism. He has a very smooth stroke and will look to be more aggressive on the offensive end this year with some more shots opening up. His defensive prowess will also be leaned on."
When it comes to all the little things a coach looks for from a player, senior forward Johnny Shaw is a defensive and rebounding specialist who hopes to contribute more on offense this year. Cole Curry would also like to work his way further into the frontcourt rotation for Montgomery County, but, despite his size and knowledge of the game, that's a privilige that will only be available to him if he gets the results the coaching staff are looking for.
"Chris Harrison is a senior guard who came off the bench last season and was really the spark plug for the team with his energy and athleticism. He breaks people down off the dribble with relative ease and shoots the mid-range and finish around the basket very well. He'll look to become more consistent at setting his team mates up this season on offense," said Kroeger. "Skyler Hutcheson is a senior forward that's long and has a very smooth outside shot. He's got sneaky athleticism and is great on the glass."
Kroeger takes over a team that won the Eastern Missouri Conference in 2016-17 with a record of 10-0. The Wildcats also went 27-3 overall and were eliminated in the quarterfinals by eventual state champion Northwest Aacdemy of St. Louis, an effort that's going to take all hands on deck to even come close to repeating.
"I have two junior guards who will look to contribute this season in Colin Parrish and Jackson Larkin. Colin is an athletic guard with improving skills that brings energy to the court. Jackson has a smooth stroke from the outside that is getting better and is looking to improve his handling to become more versatile," Kroeger said. 'Sophomore Forward Carson Parker will look to earn some playing time on this veteran team. He provides some true size and strength down low for this team and can score."
Another peice of this puzzle that's worked out in Kroeger's favor is the fact varsity football coach John Klekamp was the top assisitant for this program a season ago and will serve in that same capapcity this season. Because Kroeger served under Klekamp on the girdiron shortly after arriving at Montgomery County, as well, this duo has become well aware of each others strengths and weaknesses in just a couple of months.
"The team had a reputation for full-court pressure, trying to create turnovers and then pushing a frantic pace that saw many layups and open shots from the outside," said Kroeger. "I expect this team to be very solid offensively with the players we have returning and the pieces we're adding. Our focus is to improve everyday and one of the main areas is on defense. These kids have the athleticism and the ability to be an intimidating presence on the defense, but it takes commitment and 32-minute efforts."