By Dave Wagner
ELIDA — It’s been about seven years since the Elida boys basketball program enjoyed a winning season.
While they likely aren’t ready for a state title run just yet, the Tigers anticipate improvement in 2004-05 despite a 13-player roster which includes eight freshmen and just one junior and one senior.
At least two of the freshmen figure to start — after all, they were in the starting lineup on last year’s 4-18 (2-8 District 3-1A) contingent.
“It’s a good freshman class,” fourth-year Tigers coach Darrell Chenault said. “They’ll try to complement those other five.
“I’m very excited and optimistic. I’m ready to go.”
The two upperclassmen, both starters last season, are 5-foot-8 senior guard Dylan Radcliff and 5-8 junior post Thomas West. “They’re both athletic and jump well,” Chenault said.
The returning freshmen starters are 5-4 point guard Trenton Chenault, the coach’s son, and 5-8 forward Wesley Gilmore.
Another freshman, 5-9 forward Tom Sullivan, is trying to hold off several others for the fifth starting spot, coach Chenault said. Other candidates include 5-11 sophomore post-forward Caleb Widener, 5-10 sophomore forward Clayton Ford, 5-8 freshman post Aaron Roberts and 5-5 freshman point guard Ever Varela.
Radcliff said the players are coming into the season with a positive approach.
“I think we’re going to be pretty good,” he said. “We’ve got some kids that are still learning, but they’ve already improved.”
Besides their overall youth, the Tigers are battling a relative lack of size.
“We’re very talented in the guard positions,” Darrell Chenault said. “Our strength is in our quickness and speed.
“I think we’ll play a lot closer against teams than we did last year. We’re here to improve daily, and hopefully surprise some people at the end.”
Radcliff knows he has a leadership role as the team’s only senior.
“I’ve got to be a leader and step up,” he said. “I’ve got to set an example and keep everybody in a positive frame of mind.
“I’d like to see us make it out of district this year, and I think we have a chance. We’ve just got to put it together.”
Admittedly, the Tigers have to learn to walk before they can run, Darrell Chenault said.
“I’d like to win 10 games and beat somebody in our district,” he said. “Our goal is to knock somebody off in our district.”
He said Melrose appears to be the team to beat in the district, but noted that relatively few players were lost to graduation district-wide.
“Everybody’s going to be a lot tougher,” he said.