Different Raiders fill in for injured GasserJanuary 9, 2020
By JONATHAN SAXON
HUNTINGBURG — It’s an unfortunate fact, but injuries are commonplace in the sports arena. With a collection of bodies running, jumping and contorting themselves to make plays, it is inevitable that at some point, the accumulated damage will cause some players to miss extended time on the floor.
Such is the case with the Southridge boys basketball team, as the Raiders have had to play through the absence of junior guard Camden Gasser, who has been out of action since Dec. 19 after having surgery on his right thumb to fix a lingering ligament issue. The Raiders have adopted a “next man up” mindset to face the situation, and guys like sophomore guard Carter Whitehead, junior forward Sam Sermersheim and senior forward Austin Kaeck have stepped up to fill the gap and make sure the team doesn’t miss a beat while Gasser recovers.
“We just asked them to be a little bit better at your job,” Raiders coach Mark Rohrer said. “For those three, it wasn’t like we’re going to ask one of them to do something they’re totally uncomfortable with when Camden went down. It’s all about trust. Us as coaches having trust in them, and them having trust in the game plans and what we’re trying to get done. That’s key number one, and then just going out and being a star in your role. Those guys have done very well at that, and continue to improve.”
For Whitehead, the adjustment meant more ball handling responsibilities fell to him. Gasser was primarily responsible for taking care of the ball and starting the offense, so with Whitehead picking up that role, he became one of the focal points for the team. He has also stepped up his willingness to take shots for the team when opportunities open up for him.
“I heard that I had more responsibility on my shoulders to take care of the ball,” he said. “Overall, I just started playing ball, scoring a little bit more and helping the team out in whatever way they needed it.”
Sermersheim also recognized that he would need to be willing to make himself available to score to help take some of the burden off of the other guys. While that didn’t necessarily mean more designed plays for him, Sermersheim could capitalize on what he was doing already with his paint defense and rebounding to collect putback shots or become an outlet for point-blank shots when defenses collapsed on the likes of junior Colson Montgomery or senior Garrett Voegerl.
“We realized that we needed to put more work in,” he said. “Over time, we had to find more confidence to take more shots because we had a guy down. If I’m in the paint or around the basket, I’ll take a shot. In practice, I’ve been trying to increase my range shooting outside of the post.”
Kaeck experienced a big shift in moving from the bench into the starting lineup when Gasser went out. His keys for making those increased minutes count like with defense and using his passing, which Rohrer called “sneaky good,” to find open guys when opponents throw zones or presses against the Raiders.
“I’m having a lot of fun with it, learning new things every time I’m on the court,” Kaeck said. “It’s just like football, if someone got injured, it’s next man up. We've got to fill the roles and do the best you can to help the team win.”
All three guys have been taking the season in stride and continue to work on different areas of their game so that the team can get better and be as strong as possible toward sectional time. The Raiders are hopeful they can get Gasser back before the postseason, and should that happen, all three players are willing to adjust their roles again to welcome back their teammate. Significant injuries are something that all teams hope to avoid, but Rohrer is hopeful Gasser’s absence will provide the Raiders a kind of second wind between the junior guard’s return and the development the rest of the team experienced while he was recovering.
“It’s a terrible thing for him and the entire team,” he said. “But, if we wanted to spin it in a positive light, we think it’s going to help develop those guys more all around. It’s going to help develop our bench, because once Camden gets back, we’re going to have an extra guy in our rotation that we’re confident and comfortable with. It was not a positive when it happened, but it could be a blessing in disguise if we get these guys ready to where we add an extra guy come March. Not every team is going to get that boost at the end of the season like we’re hopefully going to get.”
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