Despite inexperience, Barons hope to be competitive
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor email@example.com, Staff Writer
Chris Sherwood likes professional sports as much as the next person.
But Manheim Central’s boys basketball coach is quite the ambassador for high school sports as well.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt being able to lean on an exciting 37-36 upset of Cocalico like the Barons had last year in the L-L playoffs.
"I always tell kids, ‘There’s nothing better than high school sports,’" said Sherwood, who is entering his fourth season with the team. "And when you can get those atmospheres, they remember those and they want to get back and play in that type of setting. We can take off of that. It’s an incentive for guys to work hard in the off-season."
Hard work isn’t a problem for this year’s Manheim Central boys.
Experience, however, might be an obstacle for the Barons in 2011-12.
Manheim Central graduated seven seniors from the squad which advanced to the Lancaster-Lebanon League playoff semi-finals and on to the District Three Triple-A playoffs, while finishing with a 14-11 overall record.
That group included leading scorer Josh Robeson (12.8 ppg), who hit a team-best 30 3-pointers and went 71-for-101 at the foul line.
As the MC boys prepare for the upcoming campaign, they do so with 20 players in uniform between the varsity and JV squads, including five freshmen and six sophomores.
"We’re very young, but our young guys have some talent," Sherwood said. "They’re not just uniform-fillers. It’s just going to be a little bit. We’re going to learn a lot this year. (Earlier this week), we really spent two hours on skill work. We didn’t work on anything X’s and O’s-wise, and I said to my assistant, ‘Boy, this is a lot of fun today. This is just like teaching guys how to become better basketball players.’ I don’t remember doing this in years."
At this point, the Barons’ starting lineup is still a work in progress. But it’s safe to say that Jordan Mellinger will be on the floor when the Central boys tip the season off at the Hamburg Tournament next Friday, Dec. 9. The senior 5-foot-11 guard is MC’s leading returning scorer, having averaged 4.1 ppg in 2010-11.
Through the Barons first 11 games last year, he scored 15 points coming off the bench. But then following the tragic automobile accident which claimed the life of star player DeVaughn Lee last January, Mellinger stepped into a starting role.
"Mellinger is my returner and one guy that I can tell you, ‘Yes, pencil him in as a starter,’" Sherwood said. "He’s probably our two guard."
The Barons, of course, would have had Lee penciled into the starting lineup as well this year. Without him, Manheim Central is just trying to push ahead.
"We don’t talk about it, but I’m not afraid to bring it up either," Sherwood said. "I’m not afraid to look at a guy on the team and laugh about something DeVaughn did because I don’t want it to be a taboo. I want it to be, we need to remember him for all those good things. We shed a lot of tears last year and now, I sort of want to turn those tears into happy memories."
Overall, Mellinger is one of three seniors on the squad, with the other two being 6-foot-3 forward Philip Wubbolt and 6-foot-1 forward Ryan Wilson. The latter of those two, an ace pitcher for the Barons’ baseball team, is back for the first time since playing middle school hoops as a freshman.
Wubbolt, sophomore Josh Flanagan and freshman Matt Walsh, all at 6-foot-3, are the Barons’ biggest players. So it’s not a stretch to see Manheim Central being undersized against many of their opponents this winter.
It also helps to explain why the MC boys will run more of a guard-oriented offense this year. In fact, don’t be surprised to see Sherwood start four guards on a lot of nights.
"Even Matt (Walsh) being as big as he is handles the ball really well," Sherwood said. "So I wouldn’t count those big guys out as far as contributing as post players, but we will be more of a guard-oriented offense. I wouldn’t say, ‘We have no post presence whatsoever’ — that’s not true. But our strength probably is our guards. I think our guards have gotten smarter. I think all of our guards can handle the ball a little bit. Another big thing is our guards can really defend."
Juniors Jacoby Brumbach (6-foot-0), Colby Gatchell (5-foot-8) and Evan Stauffer (5-foot-11) are three guards who have impressed the coaches in pre-season workouts.
"Jacoby and Evan and Colby have really opened my eyes to say, ‘OK, let’s get these guys some experience this year and let’s have these guys as two-year starters next year and see what can happen,’" Sherwood said. "I may rank Jacoby as one of the smarter players I’ve ever coached. And he’s an incredible passer. He finds the open man every time. Evan handles the ball for us. He gets to the line because he drives to the basket so hard. Colby is an excellent shooter. It’s going to be point guard-by-committee for the simple reason that we will start four guards."
Junior guard Zach Schnitzler (5-foot-8), who saw limited action in a handful of games last year, and junior guard Mark Cassel (5-foot-8) are among others battling for minutes.
As a team, they are working hard on the defensive end of the floor.
"We’ve really focused a lot of our attention on defense in practice for the simple reason that we will be undersized at times," Sherwood remarked. "We will try to limit our turnovers while having other teams turn the ball over a little bit more … I never want someone to be able to prepare for us. We mixed up our zones (last year). But this year, we’ve focused a lot of attention on man-to-man principles. We want to be more of a man-to-man team this year and say, ‘OK, you know what we’re doing. Try to stop us.’ But we’ll have some things up our sleeve."
Experienced or not, the Barons will be looking to compete on a night-to-night basis.
"Our young guys will be gaining a lot of experience," Sherwood said. "And this is the truth — that’s not taking away from the seniors. We’re going to go into every game and we’re going to be prepared to play every game and we want to compete at a high level in every game … I really can’t give you a win-loss (expectation). We’ll battle and we just want to be competitive every night and if a team takes us for granted, we want to make them pay for that."
In Section Three, though, it might be difficult for anyone to steal the title away from Lampeter-Strasburg this year.
"L-S is dominant," Sherwood said. "I’ve got to believe Donegal will be good. They’re physical and they have some good young players. I’ve got to believe Garden Spot is going to be very good. They had a lot of juniors last year that I thought contributed and really did well for their team. Those teams will be really good. I have to believe that thtat’s the top half of our section — those three teams." More BARONS, page B-4