Spoofhound basketball lost a huge chunk of its rotation last season with the graduation of a big senior class.
Not only are three starters gone with Trey Houchin, Marc Gustafson and Caleb Kreizinger, but Brady Farnan and Justin Staples played big roles off the bench.
The Spoofhounds do have experience back with the player who will have the ball in his hands the most with point guard Caden Stoecklein back for his third year as the team’s floor general.
“His experience from summer basketball and from school basketball is just huge that he has that,” Maryville coach and Caden’s father Matt Stoecklein said. “Game-time situations with your point guard is huge.”
The junior led the team in scoring last season at 16.6 points per game. He shot over 40 percent from 3-point range and had a team-leading 3.1 assists per game while only turning the ball over 2.6 times per game.
The other returning starter to the lineup is a player Caden Stoecklein is very familiar with in classmate Keaton Stone. The forward is amongst the tallest players on the team, but he has perimeter skills to complement his interior game.
Stone was third on the team in 3-pointers made last season, and with his work in the offseason, the junior is confident he will improve on shooting 26 percent from behind the arc and his 6.7 points per game average.
“My 3-point shot has gotten a little better — still not the best 3-point shooter to ever live,” Stone said. “Driving and kicking and finding that open teammate has definitely improved.”
Stone also was a pest on the defensive end for teams with his length and led the team in steals last year.
Stone, Stoecklein and the rest of the defense won’t have the luxury of the best shot-blocker in the MEC protecting them this season. With Gustafson’s 6-foot-9 frame having moved on to the football field at Bearcat Stadium, the Hounds will be looking for a new anchor for their defense.
Fortunately, the lone senior on the team has waited his turn behind Gustafson and Spencer Willnerd seems poised to step into that role.
“He is willing to set the screen to get his teammate open,” Matt Stoecklein said. “He is willing dive on the floor to get that loose ball for his team. He is a very team-oriented player. ... He is just a great kid.”
Willnerd was the third big last season behind Gustafson and Stone, and teams were not able to relax much when he took the floor, finishing as one of the team’s top rebounders and shot blockers.
Willnerd admits that it is a strange feeling being the team’s lone senior, but that it is a challenge he is looking forward to.
“I am looking forward to leading this team,” Willnerd said. “I think that this season is going to be very good. I think that we all want to go so far this season.
“Me being the only senior, I am going to be alone in the category, therefore I need to put in more effort obviously and be a role model for the younger guys.”
The depth in the frontcourt should remain strong with Jesus Flores and Blake Katen getting a taste of varsity last season, and playing well in junior varsity. Flores is a familiar name to Spoofhound athletics fans after the junior was third in the high jump at last season’s state track and field championships.
“We are obviously missing our 6-9 guy, Marc Gustafson, I mean we are missing him big time,” Willnerd said. “... We’ve been working at it definitely. I think from the end of last year to the beginning of this season, I think that we have progressed more than I’ve ever seen. We have all gotten better at our roles.”
The wing rotation is where the Spoofhounds must replace the most with last season with Houchin, Kreizinger, Farnan and Staples playing the most minutes at those spots.
One player who did see time on the wing is sophomore Derek Quinlin. As a freshman, Quinlin played very well for the junior varsity and earned more varsity time as the year progressed.
Quinlin made 33 percent of his 3-pointers last year in his limited role, but showed during J.V. games that he can be a knock-down shooter.
“Excellent shooter, but his driving, back-cutting and defense has improved a lot this year,” Matt Stoecklein said. “He doesn’t just want to be that guy who shoots the three from the outside.”
Drew Burns is another wing who will see his role increase this season. He played in 14 games last year, but like his role increase on the football field as a junior, that will likely translate to the hardwood as well.
“Derek Quinlin — straight sniper,” Stone said describing his teammates. “And then Drew Burns, he is a defensive specialist and whatnot. He plays hard.”
Another player who has made a name for himself this football season is sophomore Delton Davis. The leading receiver for the football team will get his first varsity minutes in basketball this year, but could see a big role when he does.
Another thing Coach Stoecklein would like to see is to not have Caden Stoecklein be the team’s only ball handler when he is in the game. Matt Stoecklein thought he wore down at times last season late in games.
A newcomer who could take some pressure off as a backup point guard is freshman Peyton McCollum. That name is clearly one well-known by basketball fans in Maryville as McCollum is the son of Northwest Missouri State men’s basketball coach Ben McCollum.
“He can kind of help Caden handle the ball, which we haven’t had in the past,” Matt Stoecklein said. “Kind of a helper ball handler. ... Obviously where he comes from with the knowledge and background with his dad being the Northwest coach has helped him out tremendously.”
The Spoofhounds open the season next week in the Savannah Tournament. Maryville’s first-round matchup is against old Midland Empire Conference rival Smithville at 8:30 p.m., on Tuesday. Their second game will be Thursday against either Platte County or Chillicothe.
“I want to win districts,” Willnerd said. “I definitely think with this group of guys, state isn’t out of the (question). I definitely think we could go far with this group.”