The good news for the Van-Far varsity boys basketball team is that they only lost one player fom last season to graduation.
The bad news is that individual was Sharrod Connor, a four-year letterman who's teammates called him Boomer who now competes for the Columbia College men's track and field team.
"Boomer was a great leader and a teammate, but we return First Team ALL-EMO senior guards Lathyn McMorris and Josh Hodde," said coach Pat Connaway. "Junior First Team ALL EMO forward Trey Miller, seniors Brayden Christian (forward) and guard Colten Jensen, Juniors Caden Wilburn (guard) and Treyson Culwell (forward) all saw significant varsity action last season, as well. Josh and Lathyn have started for us since they were freshman and will both go over 1000 points early this season."
The accomplishments of this group run even deeper than that for the Indians, though. This includes the fact Christian has started every game for this squad since he was a sophomore and Wilburn has done the same since he was a feshman.
"Newcomers to the varsity roster that will see a lot of minutes are juniors Verlyn Johnson (forward) and center Dillion Minor," Connaway said. "We look for both of these young men to really bolster our bench and make our team bigger and stronger. Sophomore guard/forward Colin Wilburn will be getting some minutes also. Colin is a kid that can play three positions and can defend a guard or a post player. He will be a valuable asset to our bench."
Last year Van-Far finished with a record of 15-10 overall, 8-2 Eastern Missouri Conference. One of the keys to improving on that mark this season is that the majority of the lineup has that much more experience than they did in 2016-17. If the new talent can also help make up for what they no longer have, it would appear the Indians aspirations of winning league and district championships are growing more and more realistic by the day.
"I'm hoping we'll be very poised and not let adversity affect us. We'll be a tough match-up for a lot of teams because of our athletic ability and size," said Connaway. "We'll look to get up and down the floor and will stress getting stops on defense. We need to improve at the free thow and three-point lines. We have a lot of good shooters, but didn't really shoot the ball well in games from the line or behind the arc last year. Hopefully, we can turn that around this year."
Another area Connaway and his staff want to improve upon is second-chance points. Unfortunately for Van-Far, the season starts with league home games on Nov. 28 against South Callaway, Dec. 8 against Community R-6 and Dec. 12 verses North Callaway. The squad also faces some early travel to Louisiana on Nov. 30, on Dec. 14 the Indians are at Silex and on Dec. 15 the team plays at Monroe City.
"We need to pound the boards harder than we did last season, which was an upgrade from years past, but is definitely an area we can improve on," Connaway said.