Argos boys basketball preview:
Morris is back, ballhandling emphasized as DRagons look to build on 17-win season
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
Gordon Mosson retired following the 2020-21 season, but the Argos boys basketball team continued its run of success in Year 1 under new coach Jason Breden.
They went 17-6 and tied for the Hoosier Plains title with a 5-1 record, which they earned with a win on Elkhart Christian’s home floor in the regular season finale.
They had a 10-game winning streak in December and January, and they had another four-game winning streak in late February before suffering a season-ending loss to Triton in the sectional final for the second straight year.
It’s possible that Year 2 will be more challenging for Breden. After all, starters Michael Richard, Jake Stults, Teddy Redinger and Dylan Kindig all graduated.
Breden said the team worked four days a week during the summer trying to prepare itself for this season, including two days per week of open gyms and trips outside of the school for scrimmages.
With Richard, Sam Manikowski (Class of 2020) and Vinny Stone (Class of 2017), Argos has had little to worry about when it comes to point guard play during its run of success.
Finding that new point guard is the next challenge for Breden.
“Year to year, that’s a big thing,” Breden said. “You look at a lot of the elite, better teams in the area, and typically, it’s how well can you take care of the basketball? So that’s been a big priority for us. Obviously, graduating four seniors like we did last year, we’ve been working hard to see who’s stepping up, who’s developing the skill to fill those roles, and I think we’re there. So we’ll see though.”
The one returning starter is 6-6 senior forward J.J. Morris, who begins the year with 770 career points. He figures to be the focus of opponents’ scouting reports.
“I think anytime there’s a challenge, J.J. Morris welcomes it,” Breden said. “He’s a very competitive player, but I think he expects it a little more. Last year, we were pretty well balanced in terms of our scoring, but this year, it may come in larger loads from just a few people as compared to five or six. I think he’s ready for it if the time comes. Ideally, I think we’re going to have other guys hopefully step up to hit some shots to keep teams from sagging in and pressuring him, but if that’s other teams’ game plan to start, I think J.J. welcomes it, and I think he’s confident in his ability in our offense to get him looks still.”
Nate Manikowski, A.J. Mills and Elijah Osborn are the other three seniors on the roster to join Morris, though none of those three have extensive varsity experience as compared to Morris.
“It’s a good group,” Breden said of his seniors. “I like their personalities. I like their leadership. The one thing I’ll say about Elijah, A.J. and Nate is even though on paper, it looks like they don’t have a whole lot of experience, the past three years, they’ve been working hard in practice. They’ve gotten good JV time. They’ve been working for this moment. I think they’re eager for the opportunity to show that they can play some varsity ball.”
Manikowski is a screener in the offense. Osborn is a wing or combo guard at 5-10. Mills “just wants to win” and has impressed with his leadership.
“More or less, we’re going to know what we get out of him,” Breden said. “He’s just going to be a solid presence for us throughout the year.”
Sean Richard, Michael’s younger brother and a 6-2 forward, is the team’s only junior. He was the team’s sixth man last year.
“He ended up starting two games for us last year due to injuries to other guys, but despite him being the sixth man last year, I really felt like he was just as good as any other starter,” Breden said. “He’s a starter this year, no doubt about it. And you know, we expect him just to do a lot of things for us, whether it’s rebounding, things on defense, things on offense, yeah, he’s definitely going to have an expanded role.”
Luke Stults is a 6-5 sophomore who will join Morris and Sean Richard in the frontcourt. Breden compared Luke Stults to Kindig in that he’s a big man with a nice perimeter shooting touch, but Breden added that he wants Luke Stults to work in the interior to start.
Hayden Hensler is a sophomore who Breden also hopes will contribute.
Freshmen listed on the roster include 6-2 Mack Calhoun, 6-0 Dominic Burns and 5-10 Gabe McMillen.
“We’ve just got a solid group, and we’re just looking to improve every day and become the best team we can be,” Breden said.
Defensively, Argos will continue to work on Breden’s man-to-man defense with a focus on determining when to switch on screens. He said the team had some “growing pains” learning his defense last year.
“We’re hoping to get going sooner from the start,” Breden said. “Knowing certain times when to switch in our defense and we’re hoping to be the most solid defensive team we can from the start.”
West Central is new to the schedule. They replace Plymouth.
The schedule includes nine home games and 11 road games. That includes a five-game road swing to Peru, Caston, Culver, Fort Wayne Wayne and South Central (Union Mills) from Feb. 4-14.
Nov. 23 – vs. Bremen, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 29 – at Tippecanoe Valley, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 2 – vs. West Central, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 6 – at LaVille, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 10 – at Jimtown, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 16 – at South Bend Career Academy, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 17 – at Pioneer, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 3 – vs. Trinity Greenlawn, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 6 – vs. Bethany Christian, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 10 – vs. North Miami, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 13 – at Oregon-Davis, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 17-21 – Bi-County Tournament (field includes Culver, Bremen, John Glenn, LaVille, New Prairie, Oregon-Davis, Triton)
Jan. 27 – vs. Lakeland Christian, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 2 – vs. Triton, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 4 – at Peru, 7:45 p.m.
Feb. 7 – at Caston, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 9 – at Culver, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 11 – at Fort Wayne Wayne, 3:30 p.m.
Feb. 14 – at South Central (Union Mills), 8 p.m.
Feb. 17 – vs. North Judson, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 24 – vs. Elkhart Christian, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 28-March 4 – Class 1A, Sectional 50 at Triton
Class 1A, Sectional 50
Argos, Culver, Marquette Catholic, Oregon-Davis, Trinity Greenlawn, Triton, Westville