WARSAW — After losing the majority of their offensive output to graduation last spring, Warsaw’s Tigers have some serious work ahead of them if they’re going to replace the production from that 15-8 campaign. They may also have a little soul-searching to do.
The Tigers closed last season averaging a little more than 51 points per game but lost a full 35 of those points to graduation. Most noticeably absent will be repeat IFN Player of the Year Nolan Groninger, who not only scored 13.5 points per outing but also averaged four assists and 1.4 steals per game. Warsaw has some big shoes to fill on the offensive end of the floor, and the problem is not just the team’s ability to shoot the ball.
“I would say I’m concerned about our scoring because our ball-handling is inconsistent. We have too many possessions where we don’t get a shot off, so, yeah, I’m concerned about our scoring for sure,” said head coach Doug Ogle.
“It’s going to take us awhile to figure it out. I would say that our starting lineup may be fluid for awhile, until we can get a better handle. We’re just not a very solid basketball team right now offensively. It also is partially due to our lack of patience at times.”
Making their way back to the team are senior guard Blake Marsh (5.0 ppg, 1.8 apg), fellow upperclassman Wyatt Amiss (6.3 ppg, 1.7 apg) and junior Luke Adamiec (3.4 ppg, 3.2 rbpg, 1.3 apg). Seniors Jaylen Coon and Keagan Larsh also return to the squad, as does junior Bishop Walters, but after that the faces are all new to the varsity lineup.
Senior Connor Lenox and sophomore Jackson Dawson both bring size to the team, listed at 6’4” and 6’6”, respectively, but will no doubt face a learning curve at the varsity level. Juniors Brock Poe, Caleb Sands and Ben Bergen all fill out the 2019-20 edition of the Tigers.
But more than the inexperience, Ogle says it’s a group that could possibly use a bit of humbling. Which is what the Tigers might get early as they open first at a young but talented Tippecanoe Valley team Wednesday night, then hit the road once more for Columbia City before opening at the Tiger Den with IBCA No. 8-ranked Homestead Dec. 6.
“I think overall, not everybody, but I think our team could become more humble than what they are right now, more coachable. If we can make strides in terms of our humility and coach-ability, then I think we can be pretty good. But we’re going to have to make strides to do that,” Ogle explained.
With so many question marks surrounding the team’s offensive capabilities, Warsaw basketball may need to find ways to hang its hat on its defensive effort. So far, the signs have been mostly positive there. Who knows — it may even be the Tigers’ defensive prowess that is making their offense look questionable. They won’t know for sure until they start the season.
“Our defense is definitely more consistent than our offense right now. Maybe it’s because our defense is pretty good that it’s causing our offense to struggle. I don’t know, but our defense might be our strong suit,” Ogle said.
The Tigers will open Northern Lakes Conference play against Wawasee Dec. 20. At 6-1, Warsaw is the defending conference co-champ alongside Elkhart Memorial. Ogle thinks his team will be in the hunt for the title once more, but a contest at Northridge Jan. 10 and an as-yet fuzzy NLC picture will definitely challenge the team.
“I think Northridge is the favorite probably because of Alex Stauffer, whose probably the best player in the conference. And they have some good guards,” Ogle said. “Then it’s probably us; I think we’re probably the second-best team. After that I don’t have a good feel for how the rest of the teams are going to be, but I always think there’s a good chance that either Northridge or Warsaw will win the conference. But the other schools are unknown, and there’s probably going to be one or two teams that surprise us and play better than you might expect.”