With nine seniors lost to graduation, opportunities are plentiful to get playing time at Shelbyville this season.
John Hartnett Jr. begins his third season at the helm of the Golden Bears with two veteran guards and a multitude of youthful inexperience.
“This year is a different team,” said Hartnett, who begins his second full season as head coach after replacing Ryan Mack midseason in January of 2020. “We have guys that can really get down the court and play up tempo. And we can get after you defensively.”
Senior Jakob Heaton and junior Ollie Sandman are push-the-pace guards that will look to capitalize on easy-scoring opportunities.
“Ollie and Jakob put in a lot of work in the offseason,” said Hartnett. “They knew this time would come where they are not surrounded by older guys to feed off of.”
Sandman averaged 8.0 ppg last season and hit 35 three-pointers. Now 25-30 pounds heavier, Hartnett will count on Sandman to be a more consistent offensive threat.
Heaton averaged 5.6 ppg in his first season at Shelbyville after moving from California. An improved jump shot combined with the ability to slash into the lane will make Heaton more difficult to control.
Sophomore guard Luke Brinkman is another Golden Bear that has utilized the weight room to improve his game.
“He is a key piece this year,” said Hartnett. “He will play more minutes.”
Hartnett envisions a three-guard backcourt with Sandman, Heaton and Brinkman causing problems for opposing defenses.
Sophomore Ethan Lambert and junior Jackson Parker move into varsity roles.
“Lambert is big and strong and has the ability to post up,” said Hartnett. “He did a lot of work this summer.”
Parker can work in the low post but also can slash to the basket as well, according to Hartnett.
Three juniors – Aidan Asher, Nolyn Smothers and Thomas Macaluso – round out the varsity squad to start the season.
For the ninth straight year, Shelbyville opens the boys basketball season against Rushville. The Lions, with new head coach Ryan Ehm, travel to William L. Garrett Gymnasium tonight for a 6 p.m. junior varsity tipoff.
The Golden Bears are 6-2 in the last eight meetings with Rushville and have won six straight.
The Lions will have a size advantage in the low post but the Golden Bears should have the edge in quickness.
“I want to see us move the ball and not stand around holding the ball after catches,” said Hartnett of what he wants to see in the home opener. “In practice, we are getting the ball rotated around the horn. And I don’t want to see one-pass contested shots.”
With no player listed taller than six-foot, two inches on the roster, rebounding will be key this season.
“That’s our biggest flaw,” admitted Hartnett. “Lambert should do a good job filling that role but we have to have five guys crashing the glass.”
Hartnett expects to have five guards on the court simultaneously at multiple points this season.
“We have guys that can really score, which is different with this team than last year,” said Hartnett. “If we move the ball, we can see who gets open, who creates space and who can drive and kick the ball out (to shooters).”
Shelbyville travels to Triton Central Saturday for its first road game of the season. The Golden Bears will play at Connersville, Whiteland, Mt. Vernon and Yorktown in December.
Shelbyville will host potential sectional foe Franklin on Dec. 29 and play at another sectional opponent in Franklin Central on Jan. 19.
Following road games at New Palestine, Delta and East Central in mid-February, the Golden Bears close out the regular season with home games against Seymour (Feb. 22) and Batesville (Feb. 24).