Vogel only starter returning for Hillsboro boys
After 20 successful seasons at the Trojans helm, Hillsboro High School boys basketball coach Darrel Knoll generally has a pretty good idea what to expect with the approach of each season.
And usually, he never fails to field a competitive team.
For perhaps the first time this decade, Knoll, who’s 387-114 overall as he begins his 21st year, may be looking at his most mysterious team yet.
Much of that can be attributed to the loss of Hillsboro’s “big three” — four-year starter Daniel Jost, off-guard Clay Shewey, big man David Loewen, and Andy Klassen.
Not only have the Trojans shrunk in size — losing nearly 75 percent of their scoring and 65 of their rebounding power — they’ve also lost more than 10 years of combined varsity experience in graduating seniors.
With only senior guard Nathan Vogel back from last year’s 14-8 team whose season ended in the Marion sub-state semifinals to Sedgwick, Hillsboro is short — on both experience and size.
Not effort, though.
“We’ve been working hard in practice and are competing with each other,” Knoll said. “We will continually improve throughout the season and I expect that we’ll be very competitive.
“We are a little short on size and experience, so we need to find ways to get players in the right position to be as successful as they can be.”
That is where Knoll’s teams have flourished.
If the Trojans are experienced anywhere, it’s in the backcourt with Jesse Allen and Ben Bebermeyer returning to what should be either a three- or four-guard offense.
The trio with newcomer Caleb Hilliard has great quickness, which will help the defense pressure the ball and make the backcourt speedy.
Vogel sees the floor and can run the offense well. As Hillsboro’s most experienced player, his leadership will be greatly needed this year.
Bebermeyer was one of Knoll’s first two off the bench a year ago, eventually cracking the starting lineup toward the end of the season.
Given an open look at the basket, Bebermeyer has the shot to make opponents pay, especially from the outside, as proven in his 37-point bombing of Haven.
Bebermeyer’s quickness to the basket should allow him to improve on his team-best 8.5 points per game average, along with causing opponents grief.
Other than Bebermeyer and Vogel, only Allen saw significant minutes.
The 6-foot sophomore, Allen has good knowledge of the game, due in part to his father, Rusty, who enjoyed great success at Sabetha and Hesston, prior to putting the Tabor Lady Bluejays program back on the map.
Allen made great strides last season as a freshman and can handle the point guard duties and contribute defensively.
A strong offseason could have Allen on the verge of a breakout year.
Hilliard showed how quick he is on the football field, and he will be counted on for defense, although he’s progressively learning Knoll’s offense.
“Certainly the quickness at guard will help us,” Knoll said. “Nathan, Ben, Jesse, and Caleb are all fairly quick, which will help us apply pressure on the ball.
“We also have a few other players who are working hard to earn time on the floor. In the long run, I think we can develop good depth.”
Seniors Daniel Dick, Aaron Klassen, and Grant Shewey, Clay’s brother, could figure into the mix at either off-guard or swing forward.
Sophomore Luke Moore is in the battle for time either in the frontcourt, or possibly at off-guard, providing depth.
What’s not so certain is the frontcourt, where Knoll’s going to have to see how smooth the transition from junior varsity to varsity will go.
In spite of Ethan Frantz being the only player taller than 6-foot-3, Knoll’s still confident there will be solid development up front.
Looking for a chance to crack the starting lineups for the last time are seniors Mason McCarty and Matt Richert.
The 6-foot-2 McCarty has a good shot, which should allow him to fit in anywhere from on the wing to inside.
Richert has height at 6-foot-3, and is a gritty player with a good work ethic.
Junior Jarod Hamm comes from a strong basketball background — his brother Derek was a standout on three of Knoll’s teams from 2002-2005.
The 6-foot-1, smooth-shooting Jarod Hamm is missing about five inches of Derek Hamm’s height, but he, too, has shown great improvement from a year ago.
Hamm could step in right away and make an impact both offensively and on defense.
Much like he was on the football field, the 6-foot-4 Frantz is the team’s biggest player. At 240 pounds, few, if any, are going to outslug or push Frantz around inside.
Frantz’ physical play makes him a threat rebounding, ane gives Hillsboro a space-eater, in addition to senior Jerrod Rogers.
Lacking a great abundance of size, rebounding will be one of the Trojans’ biggest challenges.
But with the quickness it has, Hillsboro has the speed to contend for loose balls and hassle opponents on offense.
Along with a deadly MCAA schedule, the Trojans are going to have their hands full with a mean early non-conference game to start the year.
Throughout the latter part of the 1990s to the mid-2000s, the Trojans and Wichita Collegiate Spartans have waged some epic battles — many of which have had state title implications.
Knoll’s third and last title in 1998 came at the expense of the Spartans.
After being selected to play in the Chisholm Trail conference, the Spartan-Hillsboro rivalry officially ends Feb. 23 in Hillsboro as Collegiate makes a jump to Class 4A.
But not before the Trojans open the season in Wichita.
Hillsboro has been competing in the Cheney tournament to start the season. However, this year, the Trojans get Moundridge.
There, Hillsboro will face both Garden Plain and MCAA nemesis Hesston.
The Trojans get their first home game in the 2009 finale Dec. 18 against what figures to be an improved Nickerson team.
The Trojan Classic fields a hearty challenge with the usually tough Riley County, Thomas More Prep, and Republic County playing.
Despite the loss of All-State standout Chase Dippel, Knoll expects Smoky Valley to be a formidable league opponent, too, and Ty Rhodes always fields feisty teams at Hesston.