The West Nodaway boys basketball team will look a little different this season, as the 2018-19 campaign opens up.
Last season, the Rockets were built around the talented guards they had returning and that was where they found a majority of their experience. Senior David Hull and junior Korbin Koch were the most experienced of those players and they helped spearhead first-year coach Kolton Jones’ high-intensity style of basketball.
“I like it because it gets in other teams’ minds,” West Nodaway senior Parker Ogle said, describing their intensity. “It really upsets them and we do well with that. You get turnovers and those turn into points.”
The Rockets were among the fastest-paced teams around and they saw that effort rewarded with their wins increasing from four in 2016-17 to nine in 2017-18. If they want to continue that growth in Jones’ second year, West Nodaway will have to rely more on its post players as Hull has graduated and Koch has transferred to Maryville.
“Anybody can bring the ball up right now,” Jones said on the lack of a true point guard. “We aren’t going to have a certain guy bring it up. I have trust in anyone who is going to step out on that court.”
The good news for Jones and the Rockets is that those post players gained valuable experience last year and showed that they are capable of making the leap.
“I’m ready to get going and get the ball rolling,” Jones said. “I’ve got a good group of guys this year with some experience coming back. … I’m ready to see how we are going to build on last year.”
Senior Brody Beason gave the team an interior presence last year despite battling sickness and injury throughout the year. This season, the 6-foot-3 forward will be relied upon to be more of a go-to scorer for the Rockets.
“It is going to be a little different, but I think it will be good for us,” Beason said.
Sophomore Tyler Blay is likely to join Beason in the starting frontcourt. Blay was the sixth man for the veteran-laden Rockets last season, but was still one of their more reliable scorers. The 6-foot forward spends his offseason time focused on improving his basketball game, so Jones is excited to see what he is capable of this year.
“I don’t see him as a sophomore this year, I see him more as an upperclassman,” Jones said. “I guarantee that there is no other kid in this conference that puts in the amount of time and hours that he does. It is going to show and you will see it this year. I’m hoping to see some inside and outside game from him.”
Senior Dylan Carden returns to the starting lineup this season. The 6-foot-2 wing was a good scorer for the Rockets last year and his length gave opposing teams headaches on the press, but this season, he will be counted on to take more of the playmaking role that Hull and Koch had.
“I know being a senior that people expect me to be a leader,” Carden said. “I am willing and I’ve been working hard all summer to step up my game, but we have some young kids that can handle the ball as well.”
Ogle was one of the heads of the press last year and the most aggressive Rocket defender. As a returning starter, he will see much more of the ball-handling responsibilities this season.
“I know I need to step up, work a little harder and score some more points,” Ogle said. “It is a challenge I am willing to take.”
Jones is excited about the depth in his lineup this season with junior Eli Sanders playing well in his minutes last season and several talented young players that he thinks could break out.
“I know no one really keeps track of junior high, but Allen really has these boys playing ball,” Jones said. “They were undefeated last year.”
“Compared to last year, I think we are a little bit deeper on our bench, which is really going to help our style with Eli Sanders, Grant Adkins, a couple of my freshman boys,” Jones said. “Hunter Dawson and Dawson Fast are two freshmen that are going to step up and see court time.”
The Rockets will play in next week’s Platte Valley Invitational.