Boys' basketball storylines: All lined up for offseason workouts

Boys' basketball storylines: All lined up for offseason workouts

Falcons balance busy schedule

GIBSON CITY — Preparing to defend a state championship is an important task for any prep program. Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley football is experiencing that firsthand after capturing the Class 2A crown last November.

What does that mean for preseason Falcons basketball workouts, with six of that club's nine returning varsity athletes also gridiron grinders?

Nothing negative, according to GCMS boys' basketball coach Ryan Tompkins.

"We have a great relationship with football — in the fact, we do our stuff in June, and they'll do their stuff in July," Tompkins said, "so kids aren't getting pulled multiple ways. We had great participation."

It could be easy to overlook Tompkins' outfit after Falcons football coach Mike Allen paced his players to the top of their bracket.

But GCMS boys' basketball is coming off a 25-4 campaign and returns all but one contributor, incoming Illinois football running back Mitch McNutt.

Bryce Barnes, a News-Gazette All-Area second-team pick who averaged 14.1 points and 6.0 rebounds last season, will be joined by returning contributors like Ryland Holt (12.1 ppg, 9.9 rpg), Connor Birky (10.3 ppg, 64 three-pointers), Ben Freehill (30 three-pointers) and others in keeping intact almost all of the Falcons' key parts.

That didn't stop Tompkins from experimenting with new rotations and lineups, though.

"Sometimes we'd go more big, more on guard play, more on post play," Tompkins said. "We feel like we're versatile and have some guys that can do multiple things."

And presently carrying nine seniors on the roster means ample motivation exists for GCMS to get past last season's last-second regional final loss to Monticello. Maybe even make a deep postseason run like the Falcons did in football for a GCMS boys' basketball program that last won a regional title in 2008.

"We've really developed our depth," Tompkins said. "We have guys who didn't play as much last year but had a good summer and solidified that we are a pretty deep team."

Bosch boasts big numbers

MAHOMET — Ryan Bosch wasn't exactly sure how his first offseason helming the Mahomet-Seymour program would play out.

He quickly got his answer in the form of 20 to 35 Bulldogs suiting up for each session.

"Having continuity in terms of the (assistant coaching) staff has helped on that front," Bosch said. "The kids have done an excellent job trying to get through everything."

That's exactly what Bosch hoped to see, considering four of M-S' 2017-18 starters have graduated — led by two-time News-Gazette All-Area first-team selection Cory Noe, along with Noah Benedict, Josh Johnson and Holt Campion.

A unit led by rising junior Grant Coleman had plenty of chances to find new lineups, with the Bulldogs — who finished 21-11 last season and won their third Class 3A regional title in the last four years — hosting a summer league that recently wrapped up.

"I think as much as anything, when you graduate as much of the playing minutes as we did in the program," Bosch said, "the summer is a great opportunity for guys to sort of figure out what their roles are going to be for the upcoming season."

Even though M-S will look different than it did at the start of last season when the season opens up this November, Bosch has found comfort in the foundation set up by former coach Chad Benedict.

"I've got to say, we're blessed to have kids that have already developed a great work ethic," Bosch said. "We're not teaching them how to be part of a basketball program. That's where stuff's already ingrained in our culture."

Spartans hitting the road

ST. JOSEPH — Kiel Duval has criss-crossed the state in his inaugural offseason leading St. Joseph-Ogden.

Lincoln. Edwardsville. Normal. Downs. Mahomet.

His first Spartans crew is well traveled even before the regular season kicks off.

"They've responded really well," said Duval, a former assistant coach to Brian Brooks who takes over after Brooks coached SJ-O the last 15 seasons. "We've played some really good teams. I was proud with how we competed and our toughness we showed all summer."

Unlike with Central and Mahomet-Seymour, SJ-O returns multiple regular varsity contributors. Though News-Gazette All-Area first-team selection Jordan Brooks and Bryce Haake are gone, the likes of rising senior post players Joel Orcutt and Jack Cook stick around.

Also catching Duval's eye have been a pair of rising juniors.

"Chance Izard ... came off the bench last year and stepped into the point guard role this year," Duval said. "Payton Cain ... to be honest with you, I've had trouble taking him off the court because he's been pretty good defensively and plays so hard."

What remains of SJ-O's 26-4 squad from the previous year that won the program's sixth Class 2A regional title in the last seven seasons is well aware of the hours needed in the offseason to remain a contender once the season rolls around.

A willingness to commit that time shows Duval just how tight-knit this club can become.

"They play together as a group and wanted to play together and compete," Duval said. "I've been pretty pleased (with that)."