Barons set to begin Fisher era

By on December 6, 2017
Manheim Central senior guard Connor Hostetter (22), who averaged 10.1 ppg last season for the Barons, drives for a layup against Cedar Crest during action in 2016-17.

Manheim Central senior guard Connor Hostetter (22), who averaged 10.1 ppg last season for the Barons, drives for a layup against Cedar Crest during action in 2016-17.

Charlie Fisher is the kind of person who always looks at the glass as being half-full.

And he intends to be no different in his first season as the Manheim Central head boys basketball coach this winter.

Sure, there will be challenges.

Manheim Central’s all-time leading scorer Taylor Funk has graduated and taken his talents to Division-One St. Joseph’s University. In all, MC said good-bye to eight seniors from the squad that advanced to the District Three 5A quarterfinals and onto the State playoffs last year, finishing at 21-8 overall.

Plus, there’s the fact that the Barons don’t find themselves putting a lot of size on the floor. Their tallest player is 6-foot-3 Colton Book, one of seven superfrosh on the roster in 2017-18.

Manheim Central senior point guard Jake Novak (right), who helped the Baron football team advance to the State semi-finals, is one of two key returning starters for the MC boys this winter.

Manheim Central senior point guard Jake Novak (right), who helped the Baron football team advance to the State semi-finals, is one of two key returning starters for the MC boys this winter.

Still, Fisher — a former Baron assistant under Chris Sherwood prior to leading Ephrata from 2015-17 — remains unfazed.

“Are there going to be bumps in the road? Of course,” Fisher said. “And we’ve talked about that with the guys. When you lose a lot of seniors from a team that went 20-2 or whatever they did in the regular season, and they averaged about 60 points a game and you only have 12 of those 60 points coming back, I mean, there’s going to be bumps in the road. But the guys have worked really hard, they’re not making excuses, and they don’t mope. They’re ready to go. I’ve enjoyed it and my coaching staff’s enjoyed it.”

One of the strengths Fisher believes the Barons have working in their favor is that they have established a solid program. In Sherwood’s second stint as MC’s head coach from 2010-17, his squads compiled 123 total wins, with a trip to the District Three Triple-A finals and their first-ever State playoff win.

“It’s not like Manheim had one or two good years,” Fisher said. “We’ve had a nice stretch. So all of these kids that are now juniors have come up through a successful program … We’ve got a lot of hard-workers. We have guys that want to get better and want to compete.”

Senior returning starters Connor Hostetter (10.1 ppg with 25 ‘threes’ last year) and Jake Novak (2.5 ppg), at point guard, will lead the way for Manheim Central. Novak joined the team this week after helping the Baron football advance to the State semifinals, and Fisher expects him to be ready for action when Manheim Central opens the season next Monday, Dec. 11 hosting Cedar Crest.

“Nobody’s saying Jake needs to be an All-State basketball player,” Fisher said, “but if he can improve from his junior year to his senior year like he did in football, he’s going to be a tough match-up … We’re going to need Jake to score. Jake didn’t score last year. He didn’t have to. But Jake was always good at handling pressure and we know he’s going to be able to (do that).”

In Hostetter, Fisher wants to make sure that his senior guard doesn’t try to shoulder too much of the load. Getting Novak back into the fold this week should be a helpful addition in players finding their roles.

“(Connor)’s doing a great job. He wants the ball,” Fisher said. “The biggest issue we’re going to have is, I don’t want Connor to feel like he has to do it by himself. Connor averaged 10 points game last year and he’s thinking, ‘I need to be the guy that scores.’ Connor does need to score points in order for us to win, but we need him to do a lot more than that. We need him to be the guy to make sure guys are prepared to play, to execute and just do more than put the ball in the hoop. He needs to create for his teammates. I said to him a couple weeks ago, ‘Connor, you don’t have to do it all,’ and I think he realizes that now and he looks comfortable.”

The Barons got some bad news this week when they learned that Evan Hosler will be out for a period of time with a thumb injury suffered in football. In his absence, the Central boys will go with an eight-man rotation, including Book and juniors Carson Brenize, Chase Marquette, Drew Mummau, Cam Sell, and Josh Young.

“The juniors are hungry, they listen and they’re competitors,” Fisher remarked. “These guys are good athletes in other sports. We have a lot of tough athletes that have experienced things. Drew Mummau’s a Division-One baseball player. Carson Brenize is a heck of a soccer player. He played in the District final in soccer. Four of those guys have District medals from this past fall. So they don’t play sports just to play them and that’s not who I like coaching. I like coaching guys that want to win.”

Brenize handled himself well at the point while Novak was still playing football, but playing on the wing might be a more natural spot for Brenize.

“I think he’s actually going to excel better on the wing,” Fisher said. “I think that’s going to help him out and bring some more strengths to his game.”

Naturally, without the 6-foot-9 Funk wearing the maroon and silver colors, Manheim Central will tailor their offense to fit the personnel they have on the current roster. Fisher acknowledges that some players are being thrown to the wolves, stepping up to another level of play, but he likes their confidence.

“When you have a bunch of juniors that played JV last year as sophomores, they could lack confidence,” Fisher said. “Our guys do not lack confidence. The biggest challenge we’re going to have is the pace of the game and we’re doing everything we can to get them to slow the game down. That’s a big mental thing. I’ve told them about my experiences with coaching, and that first year, you feel like everything is going a mile a minute. We’re hoping they adjust. Once the game slows down for them, we’re going to be just fine.”

Having a guard-oriented lineup, MC’s skipper lists ball handling as one of his team’s strengths. Fisher said they will spread the floor at times and run some inside-out offense, as they learn what works best for this squad.

“We’re kinda experimenting right now, but we’re going to game plan and I have no doubt that we’ll be able to execute,” Fisher said. “The skills are there, the ability to score is there, and the athleticism is there. The only thing lacking is height, and to be honest with you, that’s just an excuse. That’s not an excuse we’ll be using in our locker room. Our guys know that, they’ve got to get rebounds no matter what, they’ve got to defend no matter what, and like I said, if we pay attention to detail and we take away the unknown, then we’ll be able to work hard and put ourselves in situations to win ball games.”

Fisher is hopeful that a relentless approach on defense will also help the Barons come out victorious in games this season.

“My goal is for us to be as scrappy as scrappy can be on defense,” he said. “We want teams to know it’s not going to be easy, even if we’re measuring in between 5-foot-9 and 6-foot-1. Manheim’s had teams like that in the past while I’ve been there. We know what we have to do to be good and we’re going to put our guys in a position that their strengths are coming through.”

Certainly, the Barons know that nothing will come easy for them this winter. Starting with their tough non-league match-up against Section One foe Cedar Crest next Monday, they will play six games in the opening two weeks. Many of their opponents will have the edge in experience. But Fisher and Co. are looking forward to the challenge.

“We’re hoping to surprise people,” Fisher remarked. “I’m totally cool with being the underdog. I don’t expect people to think otherwise of us because why would they have a reason to? A lot of teams in our Section have guys returning. Some have a majority of their team returning, and we don’t expect teams to give us any more credit than where we’re at, and that’s a good thing because that gives our guys that drive to want to get better and want to compete.”

Lampeter-Strasburg is one of those teams in Section Two that has key players back, including senior Ryan Smith, who has verbally committed to continue his career at East Stroudsburg. Fisher’s former team, Ephrata, also brings back a lot of players with experience.

“I feel like L-S has to be considered the team to beat,” Fisher said. “They’ve got the Beers boy from Lancaster Mennonite and Ryan Smith has gotten bigger and better and stronger. Ephrata has most of their team back as far as contributors from last year. I think teams are sleeping on Garden Spot. I really do. I think Garden Spot should be getting more credit here early on. They have a lot of guys back. They have a lot of skill. You can look at positives from every school in our Section. Donegal has most of their team back and Avery Walker is one of the best players in the Section. E-town has most of their team back and Larry Locker can play, as well as the supporting cast. Cocalico has a lot of their team back. We know what (Aidan) Trynosky can do. And Solanco, coach Long is a great coach. I think they have two starters back and they’ve been running their system for awhile and that’s going to be another team that is going to be right there to compete night in and night out.”

Time will tell where the Barons fit into the Section Two mix. But Fisher has no interest in characterizing the season as a rebuild.

“We owe more than that to guys like Connor and Jake,” he said. “All the guys are aware of that, and Connor and Jake know that we’re going to do everything we can to win ball games and put ourselves in a situation game-by-game and just see what happens … I think we can (be a playoff team). I say that with confidence because I’m a confident person. I always look on the upside of things.”

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