Despite what those outside of the Gibson Southern boys basketball program think, the expectations within the program are high. They know they can be good, and expect to be.
In order for that to happen, they'll rely on a host of good athletes, particularly from the football field and soccer pitch, to carry them. They are replacing seven seniors from an 11-11 team a year ago, including Wes Obermeier, who led the team in scoring and rebounding and is now playing football at Ball State University.
"It's hard to fill that void of six-seven 240, strong athletic, playing division one football. With that said, this is a new year, new team. A lot of these kids that played JV last year, have made leaps and bounds. The last two years the development they've had has been great," Gibson Southern coach Kyle Runyan said.
Key players coming back from last year include seniors Andrew Smith and Dawson Witte. Those two saw the most significant minutes of the returnees last season.
"Andrew started all year, ran the point, did a great job of providing that leadership in practice and games. Dawson, even though he didn't start that much last year, he was a key contributor, played a lot of minutes. I liked bringing him off the bench last year because he could come in for basically three different positions and give us offense," Runyan said.
Other expected contributors include Mitchell Spindler, Aiden Neel, Adam May, Noah Singer, Taylor Lintzenich, Ethan Reinbrecht, Avery Gick and Luke Johanningsmeier.
"All of these guys have been playing quite a bit of JV basketball here, just because of the kind of groups we've had in front of them. So many seniors played key minutes. These kids are biting at the bit to get their opportunity to play and contribute at the varsity level," Runyan said.
The strengths of this Gibson Southern team include just that, strength. The athleticism and work ethic will be a problem for opposing squads. Runyan also expects this group to be very good shooting-wise, something that any basketball coach welcomes.
"Obviously the experience part, you have to play games to gain that. With what we lack there, they make up with shooting ability, we got some pretty good shooters. The work ethic, their definitely going to make it up in diving for loose balls, taking charges and setting great screens on offense," Runyan said.
While many of this core might not have a ton of experience on the varsity hardwood, they sure do in other sports. Half of the key returnees just got done playing important roles for Nick Hart's football program, while others come from success in soccer and cross country. All three of those fall sports had outstanding seasons.
"I'm all about the two-three sport athletes. I push all these kids to go play a sport. Football has had success, same with cross country and soccer as well. With their speed and agility that definitely does carry over into basketball. We've usually been one of the stronger, bigger teams out there," Runyan said.
Coming off a .500 season where they finished 4-4 in the Pocket Athletic Conference, the outside predictions and expectations might not be high for this group. That hasn't stopped them from believing they are capable of winning a lot of games, and they're relishing the role of perhaps being able to sneak up on a few teams.
"They can go out there with no expectations, just play, have fun and compete. When the time comes to play, I think people will be pleasantly surprised with the effort, the energy, the positive emotion they're going to show on the court," Runyan said.
The conference slate features games at South Spencer Dec. 14, at Heritage Hills Jan. 4, at Southridge Jan. 31, vs. Tecumseh Feb. 8, at Tell City Feb. 9, vs. Pike Central Feb. 12 ,vs. Forest Park Feb. 19 and vs. North Posey Feb. 22.
Notable out of conference games include the opener at home vs. Jasper Nov. 27, the River City Showcase at the Ford Center Dec. 7 against Evansville Central, the Toyota Classic beginning Dec. 18, and two county rivalry games on the road against Princeton Jan. 11 and Wood Memorial Feb. 15.
"You look at our schedule, we open up with three straight 4A schools. You look at our conference with the likes of Heritage Hills, Forest Park, Southridge, all these teams that bring back a lot of talent. Princeton right up the road who's loaded as well. There are no cupcakes. For us to compete and win games, it's going to come down to our efficiency at both ends of the court," Runyan said.
The Titans will scrimmage Vincennes Rivet Tuesday Nov. 20 beginning at 5:30 at home. Before that, the public will get their first look at the team this Saturday, when they host their scrimmage night. Inter-squad scrimmages from every school in the South Gibson community, as well as three high school levels, will be featured. They'll have memorabilia on sale as well as a silent auction.
"For the younger kids to be able to play on the high school court, that was really neat when I was young to be able to play on the high school court. The silent auction items, we've got a long list of items. Very thankful for all those people to help donate to the program. We're pumped. I'm excited and I know the kids are excited."