Friday, November 22, 2013
A veteran rotation returns for Palmetto Christian Academy this season, looking to propel the Eagles into the SCISA Class 2A playoffs for the second straight year.
The Eagles have 12 upperclassmen on roster and return seven players - four starters - from last season's 20-win team. Gone is leading scorer and top rebounding threat, Gabe Hogan. But head coach Brian Stanley says this year's team has the potential to run an even more efficient offense than the one that averaged 54 points per game last season.
“I think we have a chance to be a better team this year because the sum of our parts can be greater,” Stanley said. “We have five guys who've played major minutes and major roles, with big shots and big stops. I could probably start seven different guys and feel really comfortable.”
With just an average-sized team, Palmetto Christian will look to counter what it lacks in height with an athletic transition offense that pushes the ball up the floor. The Eagles want to attack the rim for quick baskets but should also be able to stretch the floor more this season with several players improving their long-range shooting over the summer and the addition of junior varsity sniper Chris DeMarco.
“We have athletes guys who can go,” he said. “I want to take advantage of our mismatches. They may have a mismatch on us - slow it down, pound it in - but we can take advantage in the full court. I think we'll have more balance this year,” he said. “Teams packed in a zone last season because we struggled to shoot from the perimeter but I had a lot of guys put in a lot of work this summer because they didn't want that to be an issue this year.”
The Eagles will likely fly as high as J.T. Waters will take them. Waters enters off a successful season at quarterback for the Eagles football team and looks to play a similar leadership role as the senior point guard for the basketball squad. Waters averaged 11 points, five assists and three steals per game last season. Stanley refers to him as his primary (ball-handler) and says his strength is his ability to lead the team on the floor and manage the game.
“We go as he goes,” Stanley said. “His competitive nature rubs off. He's not selfish and that's the thing that's key. He loves to get his teammates involved. He demands their effort and he gives them his best effort.”
He'll be joined in the backcourt by senior Joseph Siegwald. A slashing wing player, Siegwald averaged 10 points per game last season while shooting 48 percent from the field and turned in three rebounds and two steals per game.
Senior forward Will Tuchfarber figures to be an impact player as well. His versatility to play several positions could be key for the Eagles this season. Tuchfarber was one of the Eagles' best free-throw shooters last season while averaging three rebounds and almost one steal per game.
“He might not show up in the stat book like other guys but from a coach's standpoint he does the little things,” Stanley said. “He works hard, boxes out, gets a loose ball. He gets us extra possessions.”
Juniors Ben German and Mitch Hogan will bolster the Eagles front line. German will man the post while junior Mitch Hogan will likely guard the opposition's best scorer. German is long and athletic with a quick bounce. He was second on the team in field-goal percentage last season, scoring six points per game to go with six rebounds. Hogan is a defensive stopper at guard up to power forward. He led the team in three-point shooting last season at better than 40 percent, while averaging three assists and a steal.
The Eagles will be tested early, running through a gauntlet the first two weeks of the season with two road games at Bishop England, a trip to Pinewood Prep, and games against Laurence Manning and First Baptist in the Baron Classic tournament at Wilson Hall.
“We want to play those tough teams so we can get better and see how mentally tough we are,” Stanley said. “Those two weeks will kind of give us a barometer of where we are as a team.
“We'll always have the goal of winning a state championship, as long as we take care of the process. You can't expect to win a championship and not have to earn it.”
Palmetto Christian tips off its season Nov. 22 on the road against Cathedral Academy at 6 p.m.