A total of four senior lettermen return for the Newcomerstown High boys' basketball team as they look to improve upon a 4-17 mark a season ago.
Leading the returning players for the Orange and Black will be Hunter Snearey (6-1/forward) and Austin King (6-0/guard), who each averaged 6.5 points per game last season, while Chris Poe (6-2/post) checked in with 5.0 ppg and five rebounds and Jordan Wharff (6-2/post) tallied around 4.0 ppg. Poe will be sidelined the early part of the season as he heals from a fractured hand.
King and Poe each reeled in special mention all-Eastern District honors last year for the Trojans.
"King and Snearey are capable of doing some scoring for us," Newcomerstown coach Dan Weekley said. "They have both put in a lot of work in the offseason and have improved their games."
Weekly, who enters his seventh season at the helm of the Trojans. will have some decent size to work with this season. In addition to Wharff and Poe the Trojans have added size in the post with Chance Bower (6-3/junior), Steve Poe (6-5/junior) and Jacob Rine (6-4/senior), who opted to come out for the first time.
"We have some size in the post with Jordan, Chance, Steve and then the addition of Jacob who is new to our team this year," Weekley said. "They can all play and are very competitive. Wharff is the chief and leads the post with his aggressive style and toughness. Steve has stepped up to help fill the loss of his brother Chris in the early-going with his broken hand."
Newcomer Rine brings a smile to Weekley face when he looks ahead to the new season on the hardwood.
"Jacob is probably one of the best athletes, if not the best, in the school," Weekley said. "He just never wanted to play before now for whatever reason. He is a real load and it will be fun to watch as he learns the game and continues to grow. He could be a real special player for us this year."
Rounding out the Trojans' varsity roster are senior Quintin McCune (6-5/post) juniors Brett Burrier (5-9/guard), Derick Staments (5-11/guard), Josh Green (6-1/guard) and sophomores Austin Zufelt (6-0/guard) and Bril Dansby (5-10/guard).
"Hunter and Jordan are our leaders this year," Weekley said, "and Austin has the most experience back from any of our returning players from last year. All three will be big keys to our season and I look for them to do some great things."
While strong in the post area, Weekley feels his guard play will be much improved from a year ago.
"We feel that our perimeter game will be much improved with Snearey, Burrier, King, Green and Dansby," Weekley offered. "Both Dansby and Burrier are real quick and get after it and Snearey and Green can really shoot the basketball.
"We are as quick as we have been since I've been here with Burrier, Dansby and Zufelt, who adds another dimension in that he is the starting quarterback on the football team and a leader." Weekley added. "He is not afraid to speak up and get after it."
Key graduation losses for the Trojans included Cody Sproat, who tallied 9.5 points per outing a year ago and collected all-IVC second team and third team all-Eastern District honors, along with Paul Matthews, Kris Wolf, Eric Rose, Woody Burrier and Caleb Fenton.
Weekley feels the Inter-Valley Conference will once again be a tough challenge.
"I really feel the IVC is the toughest small school basketball league in the state," he said. "I don't see anyone head and shoulders above anyone else, but Garaway should have strong guard play and Malvern will have some size. Then you can never count out Hiland, which is always up at the top of the standings.
"I think it will be fun to get after it in the IVC and see where we are at the end," Weekley said. "I'm looking forward to see how much we improve from start to finish. It will be a long season
See WEEKLEY, page 3
and we look forward to the challenges it brings."
Long season indeed, as this season Ohio High Schohol Athletic Association schools will now play a 22-game regular season game schedule, up from the traditional 20-game slate.
"Coaches have been pushing for the 22 games for a while," Weekley said. "I feel it's good for the players, and my only concern is if we get any weather problems. We then could be looking at having to play like an NBA-type schedule which I would not be in favor of.
"I think the 22-game schedule benefits the larger schools more," Weekley continued, "but like anything, it's a win for some, a loss for others. It should be interesting and we will see how it all works out."
Newcomerstown's junior varsity team will be coached by Mark George and includes McCune, Staments, Josh Green, David Billings (5-11/junior), Tyler Wheeler (5-9/sophomore), Lincoln Shaw (5-11/sophomore), Zach Gibson (5-10/sophomore), Damian Myers (5-10/sophomore), Collin Webber (5-11/sophomore), Dustin Stringer (5-11/sophomore), Kwinten Garretson (6-0/freshman) and Justin Green (5-8/freshman).
The rest of Weekley's coaching staff includes varsity assistants Jeff Burrier and Josh Mason, with Bart Haswell coaching the eighth grade team and Dave Harris leading the seventh grade team.
"We are really looking forward to the season," Weekley said. "I really love my players and watching them improve each day. They all have great attitudes and are very coachable. Our motto for this season is Defend/Rebound/Run and we feel if we do these three things well we can compete with anybody."
Newcomerstown hosts Indian Valley on Friday to open the new season.