SYRACUSE — How Wawasee progresses through the 2012-13 boys basketball season may be entirely up them. What the Warriors already know is the pace once again will be brisk once again.
A roster hit hard last season by injuries and into this fall with big graduation numbers leaves plenty of holes and questions for what could be a potentially exciting season in Syracuse.
The biggest question for Wawasee, and has been now for three seasons, is the health of senior Jacob Thompson. The multi-talented forward has fallen victim to a pair of torn labrums at nearly the same time his sophomore and junior seasons. On pace for a huge season last year, Thompson was scoring over 24 points per game before suffering his latest arm injury during the Columbia City holiday tournament and did not make it through the NorthWood game.
It begs the question, can Thompson shoulder the load this season for a team in need of consistent scoring?
“Jacob should be fine,” said Wawasee head coach Phil Mishler. “He has healed up pretty well and should be ready to go.”
While Thompson was on the shelf, classmate Ryndan Aaron became a focal point and picked much of the scoring slack. Aaron scored a career-high 23 points at Northridge and became a primary shooting option down the stretch, especially from outside the arc, for the club that finished 10-13 and under .500 for the first time in three seasons.
Forward Garrett Balser returns as the third senior on the roster, who played sparingly last season.
Wawasee will absorb the loss of over half its roster from graduation and otherwise with a rotation of several sophomores and juniors asked to develop quickly.
Mishler has nine sophomores and three juniors listed on the preseason roster, but just one – sophomore Alex Clark – has any significant varsity experience. Clark shifted into the point guard role last year as a substitute and saw time in all but one contest. Of the remainder of those, Mishler noted Gage Reinhard, David Rocha and Stori Bright as possible immediate role players.
While Wawasee lists five players at 6’5”, none of them are really post threats with the exception of Balser, who is academically ineligible to begin the season. Aaron and Thompson are both most effective from the wing, Chase Myers is an exclusive three-point specialist and Kody Carpenter is still developing a varsity game. With that in mind, Mishler feels his team’s ability to spread out the court with its perimeter shooting and ball-hawking defense will have to hide some of its weaknesses elsewhere.
“Last year we had to adapt because of injuries and circumstances that took away some of our players,” Mishler said. “We just didn’t have enough depth, so we had to slow it down. Hopefully, we will be able to stay away from that and continue with the game plan we want to do.”
Wawasee is looking to rebound from a very difficult run in the Northern Lakes Conference, winless in seven tries a season ago and still lacking an NLC title in now 20 straight years. Wawasee’s best finish in that time was a four-way tie for second place in 2007-08. With marquee players in the conference like Concord’s Franko House and Plymouth’s Mack Mercer along with a NorthWood team that went to the 3A regional finals as well as a Memorial team, while stricken with big graduation losses but coming off a 4A semi-state appearance, the road will be tough again this winter.
“We thought we would have some size, but injuries and ineligibility, we’re back down to a normal Wawasee basketball team,” Mishler said. “So, we have to extend the court so we can’t play smashmouth basketball and keep it out in the perimeter.”