By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor
Elida Tigers coach Darrell Chenault knows his basketball team has grown and matured considerably in the last year. His question is, will that growth be enough when it counts?
Coming off a disappointing 11-13 season last spring, the Tigers will be returning four out of five starters. The problem is three of those are still just sophomores. The only loss to graduation was Dylan Ratcliff, a major scoring contributor last season.
“They’re growing up,” Chenault said of his young team. “Two of them started as eighth-graders.
“They may not look real big — but they’re a lot bigger than last year,” quipped the fifth-year coach.
Thomas West, a 5-foot-8 center, is the only senior starter for Elida. Junior forward Caleb Widener is the tallest of the starters at 6-foot 1-inch. He didn’t start regularly last season but saw significant court time as the first man off the bench.
The sophomore trio that fills out the court for the Tigers includes point guard Trenton Chenault, forward Tom Sullivan and second guard Wesley Gilmore.
Gilmore will no doubt receive the most attention from competing defenses. As a freshman he averaged 17 points a game and was a first-team all-district selection.
“Everybody knows who he is,” the coach admitted. “He loves basketball, he spends the time at it.”
Chenault says he believes his team’s main strength may be its shooting ability. He also points up their patience in running offenses as a bright spot.
“We’re not big (and) don’t post up a lot,” Chenault said. “We have some kids that can shoot outside. That opens a lot of things up.”
With the youth he sees in his team, Chenault is working hard on fundamentals. He says that “playing bigger” and controlling turnovers will be a big key if his team is successful.
“Our biggest thing to overcome is size,” Chenault said. “We have to be very good at blocking out. If they’re (the opponent) going to get a shot, we want ‘em to only get one.”
The Tiger coach said last year Melrose, Floyd and Fort Sumner all pressed which gave his young squad fits. He expects to see more of the same from those rivals this year.
According to Chenault his team improved greatly by district tournament time last spring and he’s hoping to get established even faster this season. He said they were paired with district champion Fort Sumner early in that tournament and came within three points of knocking them out, and lead with four minutes to play.
Elida opens its season after the Thanksgiving holiday on Nov. 29.