By Beau Wicker Pharos-tribune
---- — WINAMAC — Winamac is having a late start to the boys basketball season due to the success of its football team, and boys hoops coach Kyle Johnson couldn’t be happier about it despite having several of his top players that have just rejoined team.
In fact six of the Warriors’ top nine players were members of the semistate football team this fall.
“Football is such a blessing for our basketball team,” Johnson said. “Those guys bring such a high winning attitude and they make us a strong, physical team. They’ll pretty much do anything not to lose.”
Johnson described the football players that are on the basketball team. He said quarterback Parker Fox, a 5-9 junior, will be very important as well on the hoops team. He said playmaker Levi Schultz, a 5-10 senior, is a glue guy for the basketball team. He added backup quarterback J.T. Garnett, a 5-10 senior, won some huge games for the football team and is a great shooter in basketball. He shot 43 percent from beyond the arc and adds a big, strong, physical body to the team who is a “hidden gem” as far as his ability. Then there’s big Dalton Button, a 6-2, 285 pound junior who is a “bear to stop. He’s starting to get his basketball legs and he’ll be a huge contributor,” Johnson said.
Other members from the football team include starting cornerback Jeff Nies, a 5-8 junior guard, and Colin McGee, a 6-3 sophomore.
Derek Dotlich, a 6-2 sophomore, will be the starting point guard, Johnson said, adding he came on strong at the end of last season. Adam Gruenig, a 5-10 junior, is a returning starter who is a sharpshooter that has improved his overall game, Johnson said. Another returning starter is 6-5 senior Jeremy Bentle, who has also improved overall, the Warrior coach added.
“We’ve got nine kids who will play full time,” Johnson said. “We’ve got a great freshman class, some strong sophomores and some juniors that can step up as our 10th, 11th and 12th guys.”
Gruenig and Fox are the leading returning scorers, as they both averaged just under 8 ppg a year ago. The Warriors lost two starters to graduation in Zach Shidler, an All-Loganland selection a year ago, and Evan Rose.
“We can’t have one player do what Zach could do. It’ll be a combined effort,” Johnson said.
The Warriors are looking to be a top contender in the Midwest Conference.
“We hope to be in the running with the top dogs,” Johnson said. “Pioneer is still officially the big dog though they lost a lot. Caston is always difficult. Frontier ... I could list them all. It’s going to be a dogfight. Hopefully the success we had in football — I know we have that mentality and hopefully we’ll have the physicality and cohesiveness — that we showed this fall will continue this winter.”
The Warriors are in a new Class 2A sectional field this year with Delphi, Rensselaer, North Judson and North Newton. The sectional will be held at Rensselaer.
“It is exciting,” Johnson said. “Potentially by next year that sixth spot will be filled by Lafayette Central Catholic. I’m not sure about that. Rensselaer will be tough. Delphi doesn’t have the big guy [Cole Murray] anymore but has great guard play. North Judson has showed the ability to win.
“I’m optimistic. These guys have played in big games. We’re bringing nine guys and all have varsity experience and a significant amount minus Colin McGee.”
Johnson’s teams held teams to under 45 ppg his first two seasons but they allowed 55 ppg last season. He said he hopes to return to the 45 ppg level while scoring more than 52.6 ppg which his 10-13 team did a year ago.
The Warriors open at Rochester on Tuesday. The Zebras are 0-2 after losses at Culver and Plymouth to start the season.
“They’re going through a growing period but it’s their first home game and they’ve already played two quality opponents in Culver and Plymouth,” Johnson said.
“They’ve got a tall guy in Luke Canady and a young sophomore in Alex Holland who are pretty darn good. We have to play well and hopefully our conditioning and depth will get us few our first few games of the year before we get our basketball legs going.”