Snappier start leads Jeep priorities

Herald Sports Writer

Rachel Mummey/The Herald
Cameron Riecker helped Northeast Dubois claim a Class 1A sectional title last season, when the Jeeps won nine of 13 games to close the year. The Jeeps graduated 1,000-point scorer Bryce Huebner but return senior forward Riecker and Tyler Haas, who combined to score better than 25 points per contest.

When the clock ran out on the Northeast Dubois boys basketball team’s 2012-13 season, one that included a turnaround from a 3-9 start to an eventual sectional championship, some of the players were left still contemplating the possibilities.

Yes, there was the chance of a few shots here or some defensive stops there in the Jeeps’ 49-41 loss to Barr-Reeve in the regional semifinals, but also the time wasted. If Northeast Dubois could flip a slow start into a postseason championship, what could have happened if they played to their capabilities the whole season?

“I think that slow start definitely affected us at the end of the year,” Jeep senior Cameron Riecker said. “Mainly because if we could have been playing that way in the beginning of the year, and we absolutely had the potential to ... we could have been unstoppable by the end. But it took us a while to kind of get traction and get going.”

Blame a tough early-season schedule, blame an ACL tear to starting guard Jace Terwiske that kept the senior in and out of the lineup all season; the excuses are there — just know that as much of a success as last season was, the Jeeps are doing their best to ensure the skittish start does not happen again.

“We’ve been really trying to pick up the intensity in practice to get our minds ready,” senior Tyler Haas explained.

A new season begins Friday night as Northeast Dubois hits the road for its season opener at Washington Catholic, an opponent the Jeeps have dominated the last two seasons. Twice, Northeast Dubois dropped 70-plus points on the Cardinals. Although those games included 1,000-point career scorer Bryce Huebner, now playing at The College of Mount St. Joseph in Cincinnati. Huebner’s burden most likely will fall squarely on the shoulders of Riecker (11.3 points per game) and Haas (14.2), a pair of three-year starters.

“I think a lot of what we’re going to do this year is going to start with Tyler and Cameron,” Jeep coach Terry Friedman said.

And that’s fine with them. The classmates were both invited to the Indiana Elite North-South Junior All-Star game at the end of last season. (Haas was named MVP.) As Riecker explained, none of the Jeep players “have any trouble with their self-esteem.”

“Everybody’s going to get their points,” Riecker said. “We could have a different scorer every game.”
On paper, Northeast Dubois’ easiest advantage to spot is size. Riecker is 6-foot-3 and Haas, at 6-foot-5, would qualify as the center on most teams. But Eric Dodson, who played JV last season, will anchor Northeast Dubois under the basket with his 6-foot-7, 225-pound frame. Having that kind of size also affords the Jeeps an enormous amount of flexibility. Haas has the skills to stretch the floor with his outside shooting and could create mismatches with opposing defenses.

“Tyler has really improved his outside game over the summer,” Friedman said. “He’s averaged double figures in scoring and (at least) eight rebounds since his sophomore and junior year. So we’re looking to him to continue with those type of numbers this year. ... He’s expanded his game and he’s looking to be more of a threat from the outside for us, too.”

Friedman said that this year’s team possesses more athleticism than last year’s squad. He imagines a team that can pick up the pace and run the floor, as well sit back in a half-court set. In those situations, Dodson’s size in the middle should attract attention, allowing open looks as the defense collapses.

As of now, Friedman said four of the five starting positions are virtually set. Senior Gage Knies, who missed all of last season with a torn ACL, will play the point, with Riecker, Haas and Dodson comprising the frontcourt. The 2-guard position, which Friedman said could go to four or five guys, is still up for decision. Junior Jacob Gress, who averaged 3.8 points a game last season, will miss the first two games because of disciplinary reasons but likely will receive time upon returning. Seniors Ethan Kieffner and Bill Schepers will contribute off the bench, and Friedman said he expects to employ the shooting of junior Brayden Wineinger and sophomore Drew Jacob. Juniors Tristan Linne and Luke Kerstiens, both guards, could pick up minutes as well.

It’s a large rotation that Friedman plans to have whittled down to about seven or eight players by January. That group will do its best to make sure the Jeeps are clicking by March.

“We keep things pretty simple here and that’s to be the best team we can be in March,” Friedman said. “Kids have enjoyed some success here over the four or five years and I think (this) is a group that wants to continue that at Northeast Dubois.”

With so much potential offensive firepower, Friedman said developing the team’s defensive prowess is also a top priority. He still hasn’t seen the “hard-nosed” defensive intensity he wants.

But there will be time for improvement. The Jeeps are just hoping it doesn’t take the season’s first 12 games this time.

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