Archive for Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Wildcats look to patch holes

Bonar looking for fast, deep De Soto boys squad

November 22, 2006

It was bad enough when all the De Soto boys basketball team wasn't returning as its seniors from a year ago.

That group included leading scorers Scott McElvain and Taylor Burnett, and low-post muscle Colby Childers.

That trio accounted for more than half of the team's points per game.

But factor in some experienced varsity players moving away, some sitting out with injury, some opting to focus on other sports and some just no longer interested and the Wildcats 2006-2007 roster goes from short and experienced to just plain short.

That's alright, second-year coach Jim Bonar said. He said his team is retuning a number of playmakers to help cover the point differential, has enough big bodies to push around down low and has added enough new faces to make this his deepest team yet.

Whether the players will have to run around, run through or simply jump over the competition, he said he's confident his players will find a way to build on last season's success.

"I'm excited," Bonar said. "This is a good group of kids. I don't know that you replace those types of kids, but we'll have to find rebounding in other places and other ways to make up for the lack of height."

The most obvious choice of playmaker is 6-foot-0 junior guard Andre Linzy. More than a little short on experience when the last season began, Linzy developed into a true all-around threat for the Cats, and saw his playing time latterly take flight -- he capped off his rise from freshman squad to varsity standout with a soaring dunk midway through the season.

McElvain and Burnett combined for 24.9 points per game a year ago, but Linzy was third with nearly seven a game, and Bonar said he could be in for a major "jump" in scoring.

He canned 20 3-pointers, and was second on the team with 42 steals, only six behind the team's leader.

"It remains to be seen who will pick up the scoring, but we averaged 55 a year ago, and we need to match that number," Bonar said. "Andre's back and he's bringing the same athleticism and excitement he had before.

"He now sees himself as the go-to guy when we have to get a basket. He slipped into that role last year, and he likes that role."

Erik Hill, meanwhile, could go a long way to providing the "muscle" down low. Hill drew praise from football coach Brad Scott for his ability to see any football pass like a basketball rebound, then muscle an opponent out of the way to grab that rebound.

Hill turned that talent into a team-leading eight touchdowns from his tight end position. Now, he'll try to make the same leaps to grab real basketballs. Hill began last season in the varsity starting five, but saw his minutes and role diminish to the point where he was spending more time on the junior varsity court than he was the varsity one.

He bounced back in a big way, however, scoring 28 points in a two-game span on the strength of five 3-pointers.

Bonar said that's the kind of performance he'd like to see consistently from the 6-1 junior.

"Erik's a strong kid. He doesn't have the height, but he is stocky," Bonar said. "He was a good rebounder before, and football has helped bring that aggressiveness out of him. When the ball goes up, it's almost a fumble every time off the rim, and he views it that way and that gets him going."

As far as returning players go, that's about where the story ends. McElvain had two younger brothers, both of whom saw a lot of varsity minutes, but they transferred.

In fact, seven of last year's top 10 players are no longer on the roster, graduation being only one of the issues.

Several faces -- new and old -- could help fill that hole, however. Brady Seaman played on the varsity team as a freshman and a sophomore, then didn't go out as a junior. He's now returning for his senior season.

Senior Jordan Smith, another player fresh off a successful football campaign, is also on the team this year.

"We'll be a little deeper this year, and we're a little faster team, so we'll have to use that," Bonar said. "I'm planning on playing at least 10 players, so we'll see who steps up. We're going to try and push the pace."

The De Soto boys team kicks off the season Dec. 5 at a tournament in Osawatomie. The first home action is Dec. 19.

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