Vikings not just a one man show

Vikings not just a one man show

DANVILLE — There's no denying Kendle Moore's importance to the Danville boys' basketball team. The senior, Drake signee and 2017 News-Gazette Player of the Year averages 21.7 points, 3.4 assists and 2.6 steals per game while shooting 53.7 percent from the field and 83.3 percent from the free-throw line.

Now here's the million-dollar question: Would the Vikings still be 14-2 and ranked fifth in Class 4A by the Associated Press if it was only Moore providing key contributions?

"I think it'd be easier to key on Kendle if we didn't have shooters to protect him. Even defensively, Kendle can go out and gamble some," Danville coach Ted Houpt said. "We'd find a way to get some wins, but the level we're playing at and the wins we're getting and the way we're getting them indicate we have lots of good players and players willing to sacrifice."

Luckily for Danville, it has an experienced and tight-knit crew surrounding Moore. Seniors Jerry Reed, Day'len Davis-Williams, Caleb Griffin and Julian Pearl and junior Sean Houpt are more than just the reinforcements — they can be and have been primary options in various departments when the need arises.

That could be necessary tonight in a Big 12 Conference showdown against visiting Centennial (9-9), and the Vikings are ready if that's the case.

"When Kendle's not open, we have other players with the ability to score," Davis-Williams said. "(We have) rebounders, post players, players who can set screens. Each person has a different ability, and everybody has a role on this team."

Reed, Moore's cousin, gets even more specific describing what Danville's typical starters bring to the floor.

"Grif, he's our spot-up three-point shooter, and he talks," Reed said. "Sean is a spot-up three-point shooter, too, and he can grab rebounds. Day'len is our big man in the post, basically grabbing the rebounds and hitting the mid-range jump shots. And I'm the defender and the distributor."

"And Kendle does it all," Reed finished with a laugh.

Add the 6-foot-7 presence of Pearl, an Illinois football signee, as the sixth man, and you have a balanced group of Vikings that receives ample attention because of Moore's exploits, but isn't entirely defined by them.

"I think it makes everybody better because you have a clear vision of what you're trying to do," Ted Houpt said. "I've seen people that are concerned about stats, and it gets in the way of the flow of the game. I've rarely seen someone on our team take a shot that looks selfish because they want to score more points."

Coming into the 2017-18 season, there was little doubt Danville could dominate in the regular season, as it has frequently done thus far. The Vikings finished 22-9 last year, qualifying for a 4A sectional final. Danville then returned all of its key athletes from that unit.

But Davis-Williams said the 2017 offseason offered a pivotal moment for he and his teammates in realizing just how well they could play together.

"We went to Ohio for one of our summer tournaments, and we only lost two games to really good teams," Davis-Williams said. "Other than that, we beat everybody else. That's when we realized we were going to be something special."

There was even a moment, the 6-5 forward said, when the Vikings were down to three players on the court — similar to the Alabama men's basketball team's situation against Minnesota last November. Unlike the Crimson Tide, however, Danville came away with a triumph.

"Every day in practice, it's intensity," Davis-Williams said. "Everybody's happy with their roles. Everybody is all into it. It's great to know something special is going to happen."

Davis-Williams isn't exaggerating, either, when he says the Vikings are pleased with how they impact the game around Moore. When Davis-Williams talked about his duties, one point of discussion was "I feel like I set good screens to help Kendle score."

By the same token, Reed takes great pride trying to shut down opponents' offensive possessions.

"Defense is a thing of respect for me," Reed said. "If you can't guard nobody, then you're getting cooked on the court, and I take that as disrespect if you're getting scored on."

So while Moore continues to nail baskets from in the paint, beyond the arc and any spot in between, Vikings like Davis-Williams, Griffin (26 three-pointers, 4.6 rebounds per game, 3.1 assists per game), Reed (4.6 apg, 2.9 steals per game), Pearl (5.3 rpg) and Sean Houpt (10.1 ppg, 34 treys, 4.5 rpg) will continue making their mark in equally important ways.

And maybe that will mean a sectional-championship victory — and more — for Danville later this season.

"Everyone is understanding of their roles," Ted Houpt said. "That's the kind of stuff you need at tournament time. Having been there and understanding the intensity of the tournament, I think that gives us a great advantage."