BOURBON — Triton’s Trojans have undergone a slight reversal of fortunes at the outset of the 2019-20 season.
Triton has intermittently struggled to score the ball over the past two seasons, averaging less than 40 points per game last year. On the other hand, that team was pretty good on the defensive end, only allowing around 43.5 points per game by opponents, and the result was a so-so 10-15 record despite occasional offensive woes.
This year’s Trojans can shoot, and head coach Jason Groves is pretty excited about it. He just isn’t quite sure how well they can defend yet.
“That’s one thing I think last year that we got better at as the season progressed. We got pretty decent defensively,” recalled Groves. “We still struggled at times offensively, but we were going to defend you and hopefully put some points up. This group is a little bit different. We’re scoring a lot more points, but we’re just not right now where we need to be (defensively). That’s kind of my biggest concern right now heading into the season.”
The Trojans boast a total of six returning lettermen from last year’s varsity campaign in seniors Tyler Heckaman, Quentin Amsden and Jared Bules, junior Keegan Westafer and sophomores Ashton Oviedo and Tyson Yates. Joining those six on their way up from JV play are John Gardner, Hunter McIntyre, Cole McKinney and Lucas Cabrera, a junior who hasn’t played basketball since eighth grade but whose athleticism could be an asset to the team. Also in the mix is sophomore Bruce Johnson, who is sidelined with injury for the time being.
“I think they have natural basketball instincts,” Groves said. “That’s the main thing — it’s not having to correct them 100 different times on what to do and what not to do. These guys kind of have the natural ability to make plays on offense. They’ve just got natural basketball smarts.”
It’s also a group populated with outside shooters and one with the potential to pile it on on good nights. But even on the offensive end of the floor where Groves is feeling pretty confident, he’d still like to see his team develop a little better balance.
“We’ve got to be able to score inside more and not just rely on the 3 and get to the free throw line more than we have in the past. If we can defend and get to the free throw line, score inside, I like our chances,” he said. “Because there’s going to be games where we’re going to shoot the ball well, and there are going to be games we don’t. So in games we don’t, we’re going to have to defend, rebound and score inside. I think those three things are the big key.”
A big body, Westafer could help out some on the interior, as could the athletic McIntyre. But the Trojans’ main inside presence is the 6’4” Heckaman, who Groves believes has the potential to have a nice senior season.
“Tyler has improved in a lot of different areas. He’s way more athletic than he was last year. He seems to have a lot more confidence. He’s worked on his game a lot, so it’s nice to see him grow and mature as a player,” said Groves. “I think he could have a really good year for us.”
Triton opens Wednesday night at sectional-rival Oregon-Davis in a game scheduled for 8 p.m. ET. The Trojans will begin their Hoosier North Athletic Conference slate on Dec. 13 opposite visiting Pioneer. With conference front-runners LaVille and Winamac doing some rebuilding this year, the HNAC title could be up for grabs.
“It’s interesting. The teams at the top lost quite a few players — you look at LaVille and Winamac, they’ve lost quite a bit. And then the teams at the bottom have a lot returning. We have a lot of good coaches, so I think just with the parity this year it should be pretty interesting and maybe a little crazy,” said Groves.