Amid numerous transitions for the South Decatur boys basketball team, head coach Jordan Stevens cannot be more pleased with the way his coaching staff and the seniors have approached the uncertainty.
Graduating were Cameron Agnew, Byron Balser, Taylor Campos, Jordan Hatton, Josh Miller and Ben Tichenor. The Cougars want to build on a 15-7 record this winter.
Stevens and his coaching staff have high regard for the senior class. Seniors Chris Johannigman, Taylor Kopplin and Andrew Wullenweber saw regular playing time on last year’s varsity.
“Those three guys have fantastic attitudes, and they have natural leadership ability,” said Stevens. “Even though we don’t have a lot of experience returning, our leadership is really getting us in the right direction. Those three are keeping each other accountable and the rest of the team. Those three have stepped up tremendously and are doing a good job of that.”
Myles Lewellyn, Devin Taylor and Kaleb Cunningham round out the senior group. Lewellyn played off the varsity bench last season, while Taylor and Cunningham are first-year basketball players.
Junior guard Nick Schwering and junior G/F Sam Studler started on JV last season. Junior Seth Niese will play guard on the varsity level.
“Even though their numbers are small,” said Stevens of the juniors, “we’re pretty confident in their abilities and what they can bring to the table. Even though we didn’t have a fantastic record, they were the two leaders on that team that had the biggest load out of the guys that we played. Both of them have made tremendous improvements on their own individual game, but they’ve also grown. They’re a little older, and a little bigger and stronger now. Both of them are ready for varsity basketball, and I think they’ll fit well into our system.”
Sophomore Drew Taylor has practiced with both teams. He played on the freshman team last year and moved up to JV the last four or five games.
“He didn’t really play too much for me on the JV last year, but over the summer, it’s really evident that Drew’s worked on his game. He’s worked on improving his body. He’s much bigger and stronger than he was, and he’s more aggressive. He’s going to be a great JV player for us. He may or may not find varsity minutes down the line, but we definitely have been looking at him. He’s been involved with both teams in practice. If he keeps working at it, we’re really excited about Drew’s future here.”
Jordan Ortman, a guard, also is a sophomore.
Another change for the Cougars is a more defensive-minded game plan.
“Teaching the new defense has been an adventure,” said Stevens, “but I think our guys are doing well adapting, changing not only how we play, but just the culture of how we think and how we act, and get that toughness instilled into our guys.”
Stevens talked about the approach that South will take to navigate through the challenges.
“We think we have a team that can compete,” said Stevens. “We have teams in our conference and non-conference that can play ball. Something that’s unique for us is, we’ll see a lot of different types of basketball with the teams we play. Different teams are pretty good at different things. The big thing for us, if we’re going to be successful, is not get so concerned with what other teams are doing. We want to focus on what we’re trying to do, and try to do that as best we can. Regardless of who we’re playing, whether it’s Waldron, Knightstown or Greensburg, we want to play our game and we want to do that to the best of our abilities.”
Mark Koors will coach the JV team.
“He’s a guy who’s coached multiple things here at South, for much longer than I’ve been here,” said Stevens of Koors. “The parents are familiar with him. The kids know who he is. It wasn’t like we brought a stranger in. It’s someone they recognize. Mark’s doing a good job right now. His work ethic is a big asset. He really wants to try to get us better – not just his JV kids, we’re talking varsity as well. We don’t look at it as my team versus Mark’s team versus our freshman team. They are all of our kids. We’re trying to get everybody to grow and go in the same direction together.”
Kelly Agnew will coach the freshman team. Grant Lewis will coach the eighth graders, while Kyle Degler, a first-year seventh grade coach, joins South after three years coaching junior high at Jac-Cen-Del.
“We’re really excited about where the program is headed,” said Stevens. “What we’re doing at the varsity and JV levels is going to benefit our school, the way we play and how South basketball is recognized. Also, we have a lot of young talent in our seventh and eighth grade. We’ve done a lot of work with the youth kids in the elementary as well. We’ve already gone through a month of clinics with them through the month of October. We’re really trying to start from the bottom and get all the way to the top, and incorporate all the kids, that somewhere down the line, will be South basketball players.”
Contact Nick Gonnella at (812) 663-3111, x7003.