Boys BB team will look much different in 2015

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MTT News's picture
Rob Reischel
Middleton boys basketball coach Kevin Bavery will have a much different roster next season./File photo

There will be new faces everywhere.

New starters, new rotations, perhaps even a new system.

When the 2014-’15 boys basketball season begins in November, no team in the Big Eight will have experienced more changes than Middleton.

That’s because the Cardinals are coming off a 13-11 season in which their top six players were seniors. So when the new campaign begins, Middleton will look entirely different than when this season ended.

“Next year will be interesting as we are probably losing the most 'stats' from any team I've ever had that are going with the seniors who will be moving on,” Cardinals coach Kevin Bavery said. “As we always say, ‘opportunity for everybody but guarantees for no one.’ It will be very competitive to make the roster as well as for rotation spots.”

This year’s Cardinals entered this season with one of the most experienced rosters in the conference. But things never quite fell into place as Middleton finished in a sixth place tie in the Big Eight Conference at 9-9 and lost in a regional final at Sun Prairie.

The Cardinals never could get on a roll, and their longest winning streak was two games. And Middleton’s overall confidence took a hit when it went 0-2 against perennial conference cellar dweller Janesville Parker.

“On one hand we were consistent in that we had one loss that wasn’t a one possession game somewhere in the final two minutes and that was at Verona,” Bavery said. “But we never put that streak together or got that momentum that we needed for us to truly believe we could be the one team standing at the end.”

Middleton will lose its top six scorers, including UWM recruit Derek Rongstad (14.9 points per game). Also moving on will be standout point guard Luke Schafer (12.0), forwards Max Oelerich (9.6) and Derek Rogeberg (6.8), athletic wing Demond Hill (8.3) and top reserve Chris Little (5.2).

“People always ask about underachieving or overachieving and I don't buy into either of those adages,” Bavery said. “You simply achieve and end up where you belong at the end.  

“Thirteen wins is nothing to be disappointed in, yet we know we were a possession away in several games to where a 16-17 win regular, or better, was possible. With that said we absolutely loved walking into the gym every day with this group and the seniors will always be a part of our ‘Cardinal Family.’ These are a very special bunch of young men who will go on to do great things. Their best days are clearly ahead of them.”

As for next season, it remains to be seen what kind of days await Middleton.

Ian Hokanson, a junior post player, will be the Cardinals’ leading returning scorer (4.5) and will be asked to take on a far greater role. Guard C.J. Fermanich (4.2) was the first freshman to play consistent minutes at Middleton in several years and will be a key component, as well.

Cody Markel, a 6-foot-5 sophomore post, would have been a valuable contributor this season. Instead, Markel missed the year with an ACL injury, but hopes to have a breakout junior campaign.

The rest of the current junior class — Brett Joers, Andrew Gardner, Jordan Smith and Tyler Ballweg — will look to carve out greater roles, as well.

Middleton’s JV team went 19-3 this season, while its two freshman teams went a combined 36-4. And while that doesn’t guarantee a thing at the varsity level, it does indicate there’s a good deal of up-and-coming talent in the program.

“What I like about the guys coming up from the younger teams is that they really compete and have no fear,” Bavery said. “They are willing to stick their nose in the mix and get after you.  

“The point guards really advance the ball and overall they are very unselfish groups. And they are workers. The natural physical changes from being a year older will happen, but they will likely be at another level in terms of strength, explosiveness and conditioning through hard work in the strength and fitness program here, and we'll have guys excited to step on that court to do their part regardless of the role.”

Bavery will also explore employing a more chaotic, up-tempo attack similar to the one used by Grinnell College. The rational is that Middleton might not have the talent at the top of its roster to match up with the Big Eight’s elite teams.

But the Cardinals’ strength will be their depth. And if they can get foes in a track meet, it will likely increase their chances of success.

“We love what we do, but we can play with a lot more depth than we have for a long time and to us that means play faster in shorter stints with more bodies,” Bavery said. “Our top six or seven might or might not be able to stack up with the top teams in the Big Eight next year, but I'm not sure if everyone can match our top 12.  

“That requires playing at an intensity on the defensive end and a selflessness and recognition of teammates’ talents that is in another universe than our guys are used to. But the mad scientists on our coaching staff have been brainstorming about changes related to the groups we have coming for the next two or three seasons for a while now.

“We've begun our season exit meetings with all our returning varsity players as well as with our sophomores, and so far the response has been very positive to playing more of a true up-tempo style.”

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