Wood Memorial basketball has become one of the more respected boys basketball 1A programs in the area. Coming off a fourth straight winning season, the program is under new leadership but expectations remain the same.
"We talk a lot about how there is a lot of pressure on them to be competitive year in and year out here," first year head coach Dustin George said. "I think is obviously a program that is rich in tradition, especially here in the last couple of years. Kind of our motto this year is to take that and embrace it."
George will take over a team that is looking for ways to replace to 1,000 point career scorers in Walker Nurrenbern and Lathan Falls from a season ago. The luxury he does have is that of Paxon Bartley, one of the area's best players and premier scorers. Bartley averaged 19.5 points per game a season ago.
"Our biggest returner, really the only one who got significant time in a significant varsity role really," George said. "He's a special type of player, he's got the ability to get to the rim pretty much at will. He's going to draw a lot of attention and a lot of defenders with him."
Other key returnees for George include a pair of seniors in Harden Hunter and Cam Saulmon. Both saw playing time at the varsity level last season, but will be thrust into more of a key role this year.
"They've worked really hard over the summer. We're kind of pushing them into a real role, and asking them to do things they've never really had to do before. There's big shoes to fill. Those two have done above and beyond what they've been asked," George said.
Other players who will see significant varsity time include Logan Keeker, Travis Bottoms, Colton Page, Grant Hale, Colton Page and Paxton Schwomeyer. It will require a team effort to replace the holes left by Nurrenbern and Falls, but George feels the young guys are ready to step in and contribute in a significant way.
Throughout the offseason, the focus has been on the defensive end for the Trojans. They spent much of the summer trying to shore up holes on the defensive end, hoping that the improved play will lead to more easy looks on offense.
"We spent a lot of the time in our offseason just trying to work out the kinks. Get to know one another and understand, defensively for sure, is the main priority. It's going to be one of our points of emphasis this year, is we have to get better defensively," George said.
The Trojans last season finished 5-3 in the tough Blue Chip conference, which was good for 4th. Barr-Reeve won the conference at 8-0, before making a run to 1A semi-state and falling to Morristown. The Vikings look to be the favorite yet again in the Blue Chip.
"Blue Chip conference is going to be tough. Obviously I think, like everybody else, I believe Barr-Reeve is going to be very tough," George said.
The conference slate includes games vs. Loogootee Nov. 30, at Washington Catholic Jan. 11, vs. Barr-Reeve Jan. 18, at Shoals Jan. 19, at Northeast Dubois Jan. 26, vs. Vincennes Rivet Jan. 31, vs. North Knox Feb 16. and at South Knox Feb. 21.
Other notable games for the Trojans on the schedule include the opener at Princeton on Nov. 20, the Toyota Classic from Dec. 18 to Dec. 22, and a game vs. Gibson Southern on Feb. 15.
"Obviously our opener vs. Princeton is going to be huge for us. Being that county rivalry, it's in Princeton, as far as we're concerned it's going to be a hostile place to go into right off the bat. That's probably one of our biggest non-conference games," George said.
As for the expectations for the 2018-2019 Trojans, George just wants them to compete every night. He expects the team to be fundamentally sound, play the game their way, and do everything with a purpose.
"We've really been stressing being patient and deliberate with it. Everything with a purpose. It won't be the fastest paced games anybody's ever sat down to watch by any stretch. We're expecting to compete night in and night out."
The first chance for the public to see this year's Wood Memorial team will be Wednesday, November 14 when they host the first annual Trojan Hardwood Hysteria at 6 p.m. It will include scrimmages and a 3-point contest and feature the Wood Memorial Youth Basketball League, 3rd and 4th grade junior Trojans as well as the elementary and junior high teams.
The following night Wood Memorial will travel to Heritage Hills for a scrimmage at 5:30 p.m. They'll open the season at Princeton on Tuesday, Nov. 20 at 7 p.m.