GNADENHUTTEN -- Despite graduating a whopping nine players from last season's 5-15 squad, second year Indian Valley High boys' hoops coach James Herman welcomed a solid nucleus of five letterwinners back for the 2012-13 season.
"If you saw our team last season," Herman said, "you saw a lot of kids get playing time, both seniors and underclassmen. By season's end, however, those underclassmen had begun to assert themselves and that group will be the foundation for this season's team."
Last year was more like two separate seasons, according to Herman.
"We started 0-10, then finally got our first win which stopped a 28-game losing streak," the Braves' coach offered. "Over the second half of the season, we were a .500 team and four of our five losses were by seven points or less."
The graduation losses included Brandon Anderson, Alex Bear, Matt Carroll, Chase Gibson, Florian Kalies, Ian Kandray, Mitch Kennedy, Chris Martin and Brennan Rentsch.
Heading the group of returnees are a trio of seniors -- Brett Cox (6-4 forward), Jamie McAdams (6-0 guard) and Bryce Allensworth (6-3 forward). Last season, Cox was named to the PAC all-star team as well as being tabbed as an honorable mention pick in the Eastern District.
McAdam was all-District 5 and honorable mention in the PAC.
Joining that trio of returning lettermen is the junior duo of Brady Byers (6-4 forward) and Shawn Mills (6-1 guard), both of whom also lettered last season.
"I feel our nucleus is solid,"Herman continued, "with good experience among our returnees. I hope we can play an up-tempo brand of ball with pressure defense, but lack of depth could be a problem until our underclassmen catch up. We also have decent size and athleticism."
Rounding out the varsity roster will be senior Cole Craddoc (6-4 center), juniors Konner Cool (5-6 guard), Bailey McBeth (6-2 guard) and Jared Kerns (6-3 forward) along with sophomores Caden McGuire (5-9 guard), Jared Byers (5-7 guard), Jake Davis (5-9 guard) and Coby Eckstein (6-1 forward).
The Braves' jayvee team currently consists of five sophs -- Cam Parrish (5-10 guard), Colton Fink (6-2 forward), Tyler Kramer (5-11 guard), Kyle Contini (5-10 forward) and Brandon Anderson (5-10 forward), supplemented by freshmen Ross Love (5-7 guard), Dalton Bolon (5-10 guard), Brady Cotsmire (5-10 guard) and Evan Neininger (5-11 guard).
The IV freshman team consists of Easton Guspyt (5-10 guard/forward), Tobie Myers (5-10 guard), Maguire Sell (5-7 guard), Jaden Hartzler (5-7 guard), Jaden Helter (5-8 guard), Conner Ferguson (6-0 forward), Daniel Doane (5-9 forward), Andy Couts (5-10 forward), Brett Rentsch (5-10 forward) and Koby Cool (5-9 forward).
The expanded, 22-game slate of opponents features all the PAC foes plus non-league clashes with Newcomerstown (twice), Ridgewood (twice), Sandy Valley, Claymont, Tusky Catholic and Buckeye Trail.
Herman pointed to Timken as the team to beat, in large part due to the fact they have a 70-plus winning streak within the PAC although they needed OT to beat the Braves late last season.
"We think we can be competitive with everyone," Herman concluded. "CVCA will be solid also with a lot of returnees, but I think we can be right in the mix. Indian Valley hasn't won more than 12 games in a season since 1994 and we want to be the team which breaks that streak."
Herman brings a 102-83 career mark into season, with most of those wins coming in Abbeville, South Carolina.
This season, Herman will be assisted by Rich Gilmore, Kevin Krysty, Matt Carroll and Blair Emler at the high school level while Aaron Hrena and Jim Metzger will coach the middle school squads.