By Beau Wicker
While the other boys basketball teams in the area have played at least two games and a scrimmage, Winamac has yet to go up against a different opponent.
That’s because the success of the sectional championship football squad led to a delayed start.
The Warriors will finally get their season underway tonight at Argos.
“We’ve brought in a dozen from the football team,” third-year Warrior coach Kyle Johnson said. “Zach Shidler, Levi Schultz and Parker Fox played both ways on a sectional championship team. J.T. Garnett played both ways on varsity and JV.
“Those guys add to our lineup toughness, confidence and a winning attitude every time they play. They expect to win. They know their work is cut out for them, but I like where their mentality is right now.”
The Warriors have lost a lot of size and production from last year’s team that went 14-8. They have to replace 32.1 points and 23.4 rebounds from a year ago. They were led last season by Bryan McKinney, Kyle Krohn and the Morning twins.
The lone returning starter this year is 5-foot-11 veteran senior point guard Zach Shidler (10.1 ppg).
“Zach Shidler is definitely one of the better players in the area, for sure,” Johnson said.
The Winamac coach said Shidler is a “quarterback” both on the football field and basketball court.
“He’s been a great quarterback in the Loganland area for years, an All-Loganland and All-Midwest Conference performer,” he said.
Fox (3.8 ppg), a 5-9 sophomore, was the Warriors’ sixth man a year ago. He’s the only other returning player who averaged more than 1.6 ppg a last season.
“We’ve got a lot of new faces who will play a lot of minutes,” Johnson said. “I’m pretty excited about these guys.”
Senior Evan Rose (6-2) and juniors Jeremy Bentle (6-5) and Schultz (5-8) will fill out the starting lineup. Garnett, a 5-11 junior, will come off the bench.
“We have a bunch of sophomores fighting for time,” Johnson said. “We have a very talented sophomore class.”
Despite the big losses to graduation, Johnson thinks the Warriors can pick up where they left off a year ago.
“I’m very excited about it. They’ve improved a great deal,” he said. “On paper we don’t look super, but by no means do I look at this as a rebuilding year. I definitely feel we’re reloading.”
While the Warriors don’t have the size they had a year ago, Johnson thinks it is a quicker and more skilled group.
He said his squad will once again be a defense-first type of team.
“We finished sixth the year before and 16th last year in points allowed, and both years we held teams to under 45 points a game,” Johnson said. “We definitely hang our hat on that. Hopefully we put the ball in the basket more often.”
Winamac defeated tonight’s opponent, Argos, twice last season — by 1 point in the opener and 17 points in the Winter Classic.
The Dragons, who won just two games a year ago, have opened 0-2 after losses to Bremen (60-51) and Tippecanoe Valley (74-46).
“Argos has a great junior class. They’ve been playing varsity since they were freshmen,” Johnson said. “They have a talented group of guards, and they’re 6-6 and 6-3 on the front line. It’ll be quite a test, especially since they’ve played two games and we’ve played none. But our guys have prepared well.”