Jasper boys dealing with changes

Herald File Photo
Jasper graduated five seniors off of last year's team, and somebody the Wildcats are leaning on for leadership this year is returning senior guard Caleb Burger.

By COREY STOLZENBACH
sports@dcherald.com

JASPER — Things certainly won’t be the same for Jasper boys basketball as the team heads into the 2020-21 season.

The Wildcats are coming off a 2019-20 campaign that saw them go 17-6 and reel off nine wins in a row at one point. To have that kind of success this year, Jasper will have to do so with different personnel, a different identity and shortcomings it will need to make up for.

Gone are Jackson Kabrick, Carter Stamm, Elliott Hopf, Reece Day and Quentin Harmon. Last year's senior helped play a big part in Jasper’s triumphs.

“(Kabrick) has been a three-year varsity player for us, and a tremendous talent for us,” Wildcats coach John Goebel said. “But the other seniors — they were just a talented group, and a good group. And they were a part of some pretty good success, and we’ve been winning on a pretty regular basis — and they were a big part of that.”

Goebel added, though, that it’s always nice to have new people come in. There will be a variety to this team — this year’s Wildcats also have five seniors, some juniors and also some sophomores that will be getting their first taste of varsity basketball.

It won’t be entirely different, as forward Jace Goodhue is back for his senior year. Junior guard Isaac Day is bound to have an expanded role on varsity this year, as will fellow junior guard Tanner Erny, who spent time on both varsity and junior varsity last year. Goebel anticipates Day will have the basketball a lot this year, and senior Caleb Burger is a returning starter from last year’s squad.

“Caleb’s been with us for four years,” Goebel said. “He was on the JV as a freshman, so we’re going to lean on him for a lot of leadership because he is experienced and you obviously can’t replace experience. He’s somebody that has been around, he knows the ropes, he’s a good basketball player and a good kid, a good athlete. He played football this year for the first time since his freshman year, and he did a really nice job on the football field, and we’re hoping that translates for him into success on the basketball court.”

Goebel is hoping the Wildcats will have 10 or 11 players that will provide depth and up-tempo play this year. He threw a lot of names out there — senior Isaac Heim, juniors Jack Ahlbrand, Michael Buechler, Spencer Englert, Conner Foley and Gus Heichelbech, all of whom are expected to play at the varsity level this season.

He expects all 10 or 11 players to be part of Jasper’s rotation this season. Goebel doesn’t see a lot of difference between these players, and added all of them have the opportunity to produce, but it will require unselfishness on their ends.

“I don’t know that we’re going to be the kind of team this year that, on an opposing opponent’s scouting report is going to be able to say, ‘If we stop this kid, we’ve got a chance to win.’ I think we’ve got 10 kids, and maybe 11 kids, actually, that can hit the bucket a little bit,” Goebel said.

The Wildcats will have to make do with less size this season, as Harmon was listed as six feet, six inches tall in last year’s program, but they don’t have somebody as big as that this year. Goebel likes the athlete the Foley is, but said Foley is the only height that Jasper has. He told the Herald on Monday that defense and rebounding will both have to be a team effort. Everybody will have to block out and rebound as a team, and the Wildcats won’t have a true post player.

What Jasper lacks in size, however, it can compensate for in quickness, physical ability and toughness. Goebel praised the team speed and the ability of his players to shoot the basketball. He added that his junior class has had a lot of success at the freshmen and JV levels.

“They’re kids that have won and are used to winning, and having that kind of confidence is something that you can’t put a price on as well,” he said. “So, I think they’re kids that believe they can win, and they enjoy each other’s company, and they work well together. And I think they anticipate that they’re going to win, and that’s a good attitude to have.”

Goebel hailed Heim as one of the team's most improved players going into the season, noting the forward has spent time getting stronger, and has worked as hard as anybody.

Jasper held its first day of practice on Monday, and Goebel liked his team's attitude and effort. He noted his players went 100 percent in every drill and activity, and such an approach on a daily basis makes him optimistic about all of his players. The Wildcats also have a new JV coach in 2012 graduate Caleb Begle, who takes over for Jeremy Wolf — who went 142-48 in his tenure.

This is also the year that Jasper is back in the Southern Indiana Athletic Conference, but not much is different for the Wildcats on that note, because the only SIAC opponent they didn’t play last year was Evansville Bosse. Goebel told the Herald on Monday that Jasper sees it as the opportunity to play the best athletes in Southern Indiana, and the Wildcats competing to the best of their ability in those games will help them come sectional time.

Jasper won the final Big Eight Conference championship last year, and Goebel touted the football team going 7-2 in the SIAC as hope that the basketball team can, too.

“All we know that we can control is how hard we work, and how positive we stay,” Goebel said. “And if we keep doing that, then we’re confident that we can be competitive in that conference.”

The Wildcats will open the season Nov. 24 at home against county rival Southridge. Jasper scored the 42-33 win Jan. 18 at Huntingburg Memorial Gym last year, and that was without Raiders senior Colson Montgomery, whom Goebel thinks is the best player in Southern Indiana. He noted that Southridge is one of those games, along with Forest Park, Northeast Dubois and Vincennes Lincoln, where records are thrown out the window.

“We’re hoping that we’re going to be at a point where we can be competitive and give them a good game as well,” he said.




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