Defense, intensity hopes to lead Jeeps to successNovember 19, 2018
By JONATHAN SAXON
Coming into this season, the Northeast Dubois boys basketball team is facing the combined challenge of rebuilding the squad and rebranding their identity on the court.
The former stalwarts that led the Jeeps to a 15-win season and a sectional championship appearance such as Alan Kerstiens (10.4 ppg), Alex Harder (10.5 ppg), and Griffen Bauer (7.9 ppg, 5.6 rpg) have graduated, and coach Terry Friedman is looking for some boys to step in and fills those holes as it relates to leadership and production.
But Friedman thinks that leaning back on the team’s tough man-to-man defense, which he credited as one of the biggest keys to the Jeeps’ success last season, will serve the team well during the year while the cast and crew are working to see who will fill the different roles across the team. Northeast Dubois allowed an average of 46 points per game last season.
“One of the things that made us a good basketball team was our man-to-man defense. When we were really good defensively last year, we were a really good team,” Friedman said. “We had a group of seniors that really bought into our man-to-man techniques and how we wanted to defend, they used that as a catalyst for their game last year. We’re hoping this year a lot of that carries over.”
But that isn’t the only thing Friedman wants to bring over, as he said another key to moving forward this season is working with a solid core of players who bring varsity experience back to the team this season.
To that end he is looking toward junior guard Reece Bauer, who led the team in scoring with 11.8 points per game last year. Bauer would often use his aggression and playmaking abilities to light a spark in the Jeeps’ offense when things got stagnant during games last year, but he has been working on his passes and outside shooting in order to play better within the team scheme when games start up.
“We have to come out with intensity and energy and play to the best of our abilities,” Bauer said. “We’re going to have to bond and work together. If we play together as a team we should be okay.”
Seniors Logan Dodd (2.6 ppg) and Marshall Knies (1.9 ppg) round out the returners that Friedman and the team will be expecting good things from when the season opens against the Pike Central Chargers on Wednesday.
Dodd will be one of the main ball handlers for the team and will share the responsibility with Bauer for directing traffic and running the sets during games.
Knies will be the defensive anchor for the team, and will likely find himself matched up against the other team’s best players with the mission to make their night miserable during the course of play.
Dodd said he has been using his time in the offseason to work on his ball handling with his off hand in anticipation of working the floor this year. With improvements to his left, he can navigate the floor more freely and become more dangerous when he decides to tuck his chin in and drive. But in addition to that, he wants to use what he learned from last year’s seniors in terms of playing smart and with patience during a game so that the team doesn’t fall victim to silly errors.
“We learned a lot about the game and how playing smart helps,” he said. “You don’t always have to go 100 miles an hour down the court. Playing it smart can get you really far.”
For his part, Knies has been working on his free throws and outside shooting so that he can contribute more than just his defense to the team. But that doesn’t mean he’s going to slack on D, in fact he hopes to take more of a vocal leadership role when it comes to getting stops and locking down his man.
“Lots of talking and communication will be key to switch the screens and make sure no one is open,” said Knies.
While the Jeeps will primarily rely on man-to-man to serve as their base, Friedman also said the team will be mixing in some zone to make up for the height that Northeast Dubois lacks this year and may also tinker with pulling more bodies into the paint to protect the basket.
“If you look at our schedule, there’s a (lot) of big men that we’re going to face,” he said. “We’re going to look to utilize some more zone this year and try to pack it in a little bit more and limit inside opportunities.”
Offensively, Friedman is looking to harness the team’s speed and passing to get players moving across the floor in service to dribble penetration to the basket. He wants to use the drives to set up the outside shots, but thinks that the balance of inside scoring with perimeter play will have to be worked out on a game-to-game basis.
“We’re comfortable with Logan, Marshall, and Reece being able to score the ball, but we’re going to need to create some balance and have some options to go to other than those three,” he said. “We don’t have a dominant big man, so we’re going to rely on speed, quickness, and ball movement. We’re going to use more motion and set that allow the kids to use their skills on the court to get to the basket.”
Friedman is also looking for some younger guys to step up and prove that they can take their offensive skills from the junior varsity level and translate the effect into varsity games.
Overall, the team is excited to start the year and has a clear picture of the challenges in front of them. But they believe that they have what it takes to make another run this year, and are looking forward to a different result should they get back to the sectional championship game.
“If everything goes well and we continue practicing hard, I think we’ll surprise a lot of people,” said Dodd.
“I think we can make a good run this year,” added Bauer. “People aren’t expecting it, but we’re going to be quite a bit better than people think we’re going to be. I think when the tournament comes around we have a shot at going pretty far.”
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