Wildcat players discuss first varsity starts

Photos by Corey Stolzenbach/TheHerald
Jasper junior Tanner Erny (11) slaps hands with a teammate during the Wildcats' Dec. 4 game at Linton-Stockton. It was Erny's first career varsity start.


JASPER — Graduating five seniors and four starters last year meant Jasper was going to have different personnel on its boys basketball squad this year. However, those having bigger roles aren’t necessarily new to the varsity game altogether. Seniors Isaac Heim and Jace Goodhue, and junior Tanner Erny all played varsity last year, but they took a bigger step to become starters this year.

The three of them were all in the same boat Dec. 4 at Linton-Stockton when they all made the first varsity starts of their Jasper careers. The Wildcats have a multitude of players they’ll be looking to this season, but Heim, Goodhue and Erny all earned their spots.

“The feeling in your gut — the excitement, that was a really good feeling,” Erny said. “And I’m just excited to continue and see how this season goes.”

“For me, it was just the culmination of a long journey, of a lot of hard work,” Heim added. “It was honestly just an amazing feeling, and I was excited to get out there and play with my teammates and try to get the win.”

“It felt great for practicing for after a month to get on the court with all my friends and our hard work — we finally got to put it against another team instead of battling with each other every day in practice,” Goodhue said. “And it just felt really good to be out there."

Each of them has had something they’ve offered to the team thus far. Both Heim and Erny have shown they can be capable scorers, with the former getting some big rebounds and the latter some timely buckets. Goodhue, meanwhile, has brought intensity to Jasper’s defense.

“All three put in a lot of time in the offseason,” Wildcats coach John Goebel said. “All three spent a lot of time on basketball — playing a heck of a lot of basketball, and I think it shows.”

The three of them had some of the usual nerves that comes before playing a basketball game, but nothing too out of the ordinary. All three were excited to get out there and compete.

With Goodhue and Heim both being seniors, it’s the only shot they’ll have to be varsity starters. Heim told the Herald Tuesday that they’ll try to make the most of it, and not get too upset if games get cancelled or rescheduled.

Jasper senior Isaac Heim (31) positions himself to defend Dec. 5 against Loogootee. It was Heim's second career varsity start, with the first one coming the night before against Linton-Stockton.

“We’re just being inconvenienced by it,” Heim said. “I mean, people are dying from this virus. So, I think us missing a couple basketball games wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, but we just got to take how it is and make the best of it.”

“My dad (James has) helped me with this a lot because he helped me put in perspective to just enjoy every day, every practice at a time because you don’t know when's the last one you’ll have what’s going to happen during this because it’s nothing like we’ve ever seen before,” Goodhue added.

Erny will get another go after this season, and he went from splitting time between varsity and junior varsity as a sophomore to being a varsity starter his junior year.

“It was a good experience for me to get some playing time last year between JV and varsity because now I’m not going into varsity games fully unaware of what’s going on” he said. “I think it really helped boost my confidence, which really helps on the floor. And I think it really helped me for this year, and I think it was a good move by Coach (Goebel) to let me play some JV and get some minutes.”

Goebel noted the three of them are all physically stronger than they were last year, and they’re all more confident now because they’re used to being in Jasper’s system. He specifically touted Goodhue and Heim as senior captains for imparting what they have learned through the years into the younger players. He also likes how positive they are and how hard they compete.

The 14th-year coach of the Wildcats wants players who make their first varsity start to not overthink things, but there’s more to Jasper basketball than just being a starter, too. Goodhue and Erny were both in the team’s rotation last year, and Heim was in-and-out of it.

“Starting really is an honor, but it’s not an end-all,” he said. “It’s not something that should necessarily be a priority for them because whether you start or not, you’re going to play. You may actually play more minutes off the bench — just depends on the situation in the game.

“You’re rewarding the guys who have been around, who have worked really hard, who are producing and who are providing leadership by giving them that starting job,” Goebel continued. “But the guys that are coming off the bench are coming off the bench pretty quickly. So, the guys who don’t start, they shouldn’t look at it as a demotion at all — because in a lot of systems, the top five and six guys are getting most of the minutes. And that’s just not the way we’re doing it right now.”

The starters Jasper graduated from last years team were Jackson Kabrick, Quentin Harmon, Carter Stamm and Elliott Hopf, plus a fifth senior — Reece Day. The trio of Goodhue, Heim and Erny all felt like they learned something from last year’s senior starters.

“I think we learned a lot about leadership,” said Erny, who likes to lead by example. “They did a really good job of teaching us what not to do on the court, what to do on the court. They really helped us out, put it in perspective for us to enjoy every moment — because you don’t know much longer you’re going to have — and just their leadership was something that I really looked up to.”

“I think the biggest thing I learned from them was composure,” Heim later said. “Obviously, those guys were really good ballplayers and they had a lot of varsity experience. It’s obviously a whole new environment playing an expanded role in varsity. So, I’m just trying to emulate their composure and their efficiency on the court.”

“They taught us a lot of when to kick it into the extra gear when we really needed a stop on defense,” Goodhue added. “And I think that just started from Jackson, and went all the way through Carter, Quentin, Elliott and Reece — and it all just taught us hard work, and when you lock in, then good things happen. It can help you win ballgames.”

Jasper senior Jace Goodhue (51) is a captain for the Wildcats this year, along fellow senior Isaac Heim. Goodhue and Heim both made their first varsity starts Dec. 4 at Linton-Stockton.

A bigger varsity role means having to get used to a bigger varsity role. Heim isn’t sure if he’ll ever be at a point where he’s ready or the best he can be. But he’ll try to improve as much as he can with every opportunity he has.

Goodhue isn’t sure he’ll ever be there, either, but with the expanded role, he knows he has the responsibility to help the Jasper players who are currently quarantined to help learn the offense, as well as other things the team has put in, to be best the Wildcats can be.

Goebel’s hoping the three of them will keep getting more used to taking on a bigger varsity role, and if the Wildcats are to come away with their first win Friday at Southern Indiana Athletic Conference rival Evansville Memorial, Goodhue, Heim and Erny will all be crucial to that.

“They’re going to be crucial to everything we do this year because they’re going to be a big part of it — both from a leadership standpoint and what they’re able to produce on the floor,” he said.

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