Pats could have many viable options

Herald File Photo
Heritage Hills graduated some key pieces off of last year's sectional team, but senior big man Blake Sisley is back.


LINCOLN CITY — Only one of Heritage Hills’ big three of Murray Becher, Simon Scherry and Blake Sisley is back for the 2020-21 season. With Becher and Scherry having graduated after record breaking careers with the Patriots, a lot of attention is on the University of Evansville signee.

“I know I’m going to have to step up into a bigger role this year, but my mindset doesn’t change,” Sisley said. “I’m still going to pass when I need to, rebound when I need to — just do what it takes to win, and we got the guys around us to do that.”

Pats coach Nate Hawkins said Sisley has shown more of a team leader role as practice carried on. Sisley told the Herald that he’s leading the less experienced players through practice, and that he’s getting his younger teammates where they need to be.

Sisley has 548 career rebounds — 12 away from breaking Ken Dilger’s career rebounding record of 559. He scored his 1,000th point last year, and stands at 1,056 in his career. Hawkins didn’t rule out that he could overtake Becher’s 1,703 points as Heritage Hills’ all-time leading scorer.

“Depending on how far we go, and the numbers that Blake (puts) up — we expect Blake to put big numbers up, it’s not without the possibility that he could be right there,” Hawkins said. “Hopefully, we can stay healthy and keep going and stay after this whole thing and get through the season.”

The Pats might start their scoring production with Sisley, but Hawkins doesn’t think it’ll end with him. Both Becher and Scherry scored more than 1,000 points in their careers, and the fifth-year Heritage Hills coach sees different options to complement Sisley’s scoring.

Heritage Hills returns senior Jake Johnson, who will take over the spot as the team’s full-time point guard. Hawkins notes that Johnson “can really shoot the basketball” and has spent a lot of time in the gym. He added that Johnson is playing with much more confidence than he did a year ago.

Hawkins sees Johnson in being a surprise this year to go from a fifth starter last season to a bigger role this season.

“I just think Jake is just a natural born point guard,” he said. “I think his numbers — you’re going to steadily see those increase, and I think we’ve got a goal in mind that what we would like for him, obviously a 3:1 assist-to-turnover ratio for him, and we think he can get there because he’s tough, he handles the basketball. He sees things, I think, that a lot of other kids don’t see.

“And sometimes, when there’s turnovers, it’s because one of our guys isn’t cutting to the basket, or whatever,” Hawkins continued. “And he’s a great leader, too.”

The Pats have a new player in senior Cameron Banks, who is a transfer from Evansville Central, but won’t be eligible to play until January. Hawkins likes a lot of things about him — his toughness, his ability to help Johnson with handling the ball, the fact that he can shoot it or go to the rim.

“We’ve been very pleased with the play of (senior) Adam Guth, (junior) Alex Schaeffer, (senior) Logan Kryzkowski to this point,” Hawkins said. “(Junior) JT Smallwood’s in that mix, (senior) Aiden Susnjara’s in there. (Senior) Jacob Schmidt’s a kid who hasn’t played for two years — tore his ACL his sophomore year. Last year, he wasn’t quite ready to come back. This year, he wanted to try it again, and he’s been a very positive production for us.”

The Pats have different options in regards to Schaeffer, another big man for them. Hawkins sees Schaeffer vying for time in the team’s rotation, and acknowledged that Heritage Hills could go big this year with a lot of length. He likes Schaeffer’s rebounding ability, and thinks he can “definitely” be in the rotation.

Junior Owen Vinson could help out, and Heritage Hills will also be looking to sophomore Marcus Becher, Murray’s younger brother. Hawkins thought Marcus looked good in the summer and fall for the Pats.

“He’s got to be his own guy,” he said of Marcus. “We had Murray’s older brother, Mitchel, had played for me in my first couple of years here, and Mitchel was his own type of player, a great player. All of them bring different things to the table, but Marcus — here’s a kid that’s 6’2, 175 pounds. I mean, he’s already at this age as a sophomore, he’s bigger than what Murray was as far as with his weight and stuff.”

Hawkins thinks Marcus can shoot it well and finish at the rim, too. He told the Herald that all of the brothers are different, and Marcus shouldn’t feel any pressure to live up to what Murray did.

The Pats have a change in personnel this year, but Hawkins doesn’t see a change in offensive and defensive formations. He said they rely on a man-to-man defense, and they still have the players that can trap and press. Hawkins added Heritage Hills still has the players who can go fast and run up and down the floor.

Hawkins knows it’s a process, and Heritage Hills won’t be as good in November as it will be in March. Last year’s team, he said, was the same way. Another difference this year is the Pats won’t be back at the Raymond James Hall of Fame Classic, but Hawkins still likes the quality of competition they’ll be seeing.

“We were able to get (Evansville) Bosse back, and we’re going to play them here in December,” Hawkins said. “So, we felt like that was really good. We got North Harrison two times. North Harrison should be one of the better 3A teams, we think, in the state. We also joined the Prep Hoop Classic, and we got Barr-Reeve over there, which Barr-Reeve is probably going to be number one in 1A. So, we feel like they give us a different look there, as well.”

The Pats will try to successfully defend their Pocket Athletic Conference crown again, but this time, they’ll have to do it with more teams joining the PAC this year. Hawkins noted the expansion has made the PAC a stout conference.

He thinks Heritage Hills going undefeated again in PAC play is going to be a “mighty challenge” when factoring in that teams like Washington and Princeton joined. Hawkins also mentioned teams like South Spencer, Gibson Southern and the likes of Southridge and Forest Park always being solid.

“Every single night that you step onto the floor, you’re going to have to be pretty good if you’re going to win the PAC championship this year,” he said. “And that’s what we feel like — that that conference is ultimately going to help us for the tournament as well.”

Heritage Hills has seven seniors this year, and when the Pats returned to the floor in July, Hawkins could see the hunger in their eyes — perhaps even more than it was before. He noted during the first week of practice that work ethic was getting better each day.

The Pats are set to open their season Saturday at home against North Harrison. Hawkins will present Sisley a special basketball commemorating his 1,000th point.

“I like the fact that it is a home game for us,” Hawkins said. “It always gives us a little bit of extra energy, it seems like, playing on our home floor, but it’s going to come down to defense and rebounding — especially in early in the year.

“We’re going to have to be able to guard them, execute our offense, take care of the basketball,” he continued. “I know all those things sound very coaching cliche, but they’re very true for this basketball team. They’re going to have to do all those things every single night in order for us to have a chance to win.”

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