Experienced Cats enthused about what's to come

Herald File Photo by Brittney Lohmiller
Jared Englert is one of several returning players for the Jasper boys basketball team that played a major role in their first outright Big Eight conference title since 1996 last season. That experience has those around the Wildcat basketball program rather excited about the potential this year's Jasper squad has entering this season.


The Jasper boys basketball team ended the 2017-18 season with a boatload of momentum. They won their final seven regular season games (including a 55-36 defeat of Princeton for Jasper’s first outright Big Eight conference title since 1996) and narrowly missed out on a sectional championship berth.

While the Cats did graduate a few key seniors from last year’s 15-9 team, Jasper brings back a large nucleus of last season’s contributors. That experience has those around the Wildcat basketball program rather excited heading into next Tuesday’s opening game against Evansville Harrison.

“We have guys like Jared Englert, Jackson Kabrick, Josh Weidenbenner and Reece Milligan who all at different times started for us while some started the entire year,” Jasper head coach John Goebel said. “Experience is a big part in being successful and we will have some of that coming back.”

Milligan added: “I think in any sport it’s important to have experience on your team and I think with this experience we can go a long way — really, as far as we want to.”

While Jasper did graduate three of their top five scorers from a year ago (Eric Nordhoff, Justin Persohn and Austin Simmers all averaged over seven points per game), they do return their top point scorer from a year ago in Jared Englert. Englert averaged 11.6 points per game and also received several honors including a honorable mention selection to the IBCA/Subway all-state team and was a member of the Big Eight all-conference squad.

Jackson Kabrick, Reece Milligan and Josh Weidenbenner all also return for Jasper as members with a plethora of varsity experience — all three players played in all 22 games for the Wildcats last season and also provided scoring bursts at times (Kabrick scored a season-high of 17, Weidenbenner had a season-best total of 15 and Milligan’s high in 2017-18 was 14 points).

The Cats will also be welcoming several new players to the varsity rotation this season including seniors Dillon Sternberg, Kyle Hedinger and Phillip Noblitt, juniors Quentin Harmon, Elliott Hopf and Carter Stamm as well as sophomore Caleb Burger. While becoming a new member of the varsity lineup can be stressful at times, the experienced seniors are hoping to help the younger players be less nervous and more seasoned for the future.

“I think it’s really just about getting them together and once they’re in the game just rally them together if they have a moment where they kind of freak out,” Englert said.

Milligan added: “To go along with all of the things on the court, I can hopefully teach them for years to come about how to be a leader and really step up for the team.”

In terms of this year’s schedule for Jasper there are two new opponents — Tell City and Evansville Reitz. The Wildcats last played Tell City in 2001 when they fell 76-70 in a double overtime battle while the last meeting between the Cats and the Panthers just happened to take place in the same season as Jasper fell 68-60.

With the removal of the Dubois County Classic tournament, Jasper had to search for a few new opponents to fill out the schedule. While the battle against the Marksmen will take place at Jasper, the meeting against Reitz will be on a neutral court — in Evansville’s Ford Center (the home of the Division I Evansville Aces), of all places.

“Reitz is in our sectional and it just so turned out that they needed an opponent for the River City Showcase,” Goebel said. “It’s a good fit — it gives our players the opportunity to go play at the Ford Center and it’s just a neat experience for them.”

Overall, there’s a lot of excitement around the Jasper boys basketball program especially with what’s been so far at the limited amount of practices the Wildcats have had as a team this offseason.

The biggest aspect the players have noticed has been the amount of teamwork the Cats have shown through the early workouts and practices.

“I think the team effort is definitely there,” Englert said. “It’s probably the most I’ve seen it at throughout my school career so that’s been a big factor.”

Milligan added: “We’ve only really practiced together for like a week but I feel like this team is so tight-knit — we play for each other and we play pretty hard, too.”

In addition to the teamwork Jasper has displayed, Goebel has also been very impressed with the work ethic of the team as a whole — from practice to practice, it’s remained a strong point for the Wildcat boys basketball program.

“They compete hard at practice and I think anytime you have a group of young men who aren’t afraid of hard work and aren’t afraid to compete in practice no matter how small the drill is, I think that equates to the possibility of being a successful team,” Goebel said. “We still have a long way to go, we’re still pretty raw, but if they maintain the course they’ve chosen and keep working hard then I believe the sky’s the limit.”

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