Caston boys basketball preview: All 5 starters graduate, but 6 seniors return for Comets
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
Before one waxes too nostalgic about the era of Caston boys basketball that ended after last season’s sectional semifinal loss to North White, one might anticipate the coming Comets.
Yes, Caston graduated all five starters from a team that went 15-8 and won the Hoosier North title. The group of Joey Spin, Kade Zeider, Sam Smith, Bryce Rudicel and Jake Paschen also won back-to-back sectional titles in 2020 and 2021 during their sophomore and junior seasons.
But it’s also true that Caston’s JV team went 20-2 last year, and they have five seniors on this year’s varsity who contributed to that record: guards Brady Evans, Colby Pugh and Evan Howard and forwards Jackson Rentschler and Cain Schanlaub.
A sixth senior, 6-0 guard Rowan Jellison, who has not played basketball since his freshman year, has also come out for basketball this year.
“I think a lot of our offseason is figuring out what works best for us,” Caston coach Carl Davis said. “That’s a process that’s going to continue into the regular season as we’re going to have to figure out what the identity of this group’s going to be. I think it’s easy to dictate and say exactly what we want that to be, but each team kind of takes on its own personality, so we’ve been trying to figure that out. Obviously, there are some core concepts that are going to change for us, but we definitely are going to have a lot of new faces, and I’m excited for that process of these kids learning and growing together and learning how to play together.”
That growing process might have taken a hit during the offseason as Pugh, the team’s most experienced returning ballhandler, suffered a knee injury, and Schanlaub, the team’s tallest player at 6-5, suffered an ankle injury.
Davis said both are practicing right now but did not specify when both would be playing in games.
“I think the biggest thing is we didn’t have the opportunity in the offseason to have a lot of time with everyone together,” Davis said. “But that also gives some other kids the opportunity to play up and to play in roles they haven’t played in before. So from that perspective, it gave those kids an opportunity, but obviously, when you have two returning letterwinners from last year, and we haven’t gotten a lot of time together with the whole team.
“So that’s something that we would never want to have happen. It was unfortunate, but we’re going to have to move forward together and learn and grow from it and as we enter the season here, find some answers to questions we have in terms of what works best for us.”
Davis did rave about Schanlaub’s offseason, saying that it was a continuation of the sectional game loss to North White which he said was his best game. He can score in the post and also attack the rim from the perimeter, according to Davis.
Evans suffered an ACL injury during JV last season and has stood out for the “intensity and aggressiveness” that he brings to practice, according to Davis. He also stands out with his passing ability and his understanding of the defensive rotations necessary to run Caston’s switching man-to-man.
Rentschler, a 6-2 forward, is another varsity newcomer.
“Jackson’s one of the best communicators that I’ve coached,” Davis said. “He does an outstanding job of communicating on both ends of the court and making sure we’re all on the same page. He has a great feel for the game in terms of when to screen and when to slip. He moves off the ball really well in relation to where the ball’s at. … He shot a really high percentage last year on JV finishing around the rim, and we’re excited for him to continue to be aggressive in there and continue to attack the basket.”
Davis said Jellison approached him about playing this summer after choosing not to play as a sophomore and junior. Davis called Jellison a “relentless worker.”
Junior guard Talon Zeider has displayed good decision making in terms of knowing when to attack the rim and when to shoot from the perimeter. Davis also said that Zeider can be “disruptive” with his defensive instincts.
Another junior is 6-1 guard Caleb Stinson, a player that Davis describes as “very dynamic.”
“He’s going to spend some time on the point for us this year,” Davis said. “He’s extremely explosive, but at the same time, he’s strong, and he can play off the ball too. There’s even times where he might find himself inside. So that’s part of that process of trying to figure out what this team is going to do best.”
A third junior on the varsity is Grant Yadon, a 6-2 forward.
“Grant Yadon has worked really hard in the offseason in the weight room, and that showed on the football field this year,” Davis said. “Just a really physical player. He has really committed himself to the basketball program this offseason as well. He’s spent a lot of time in the gym with us. … Just his athleticism allows him to get rebounds out of his area, which is huge. Defensively, as he gets more and more comfortable with rotations, his ability to get from spot to spot is impressive. So as he’s moving with the other four guys on the court, he’s somebody that can create a lot of problems defensively just because of his athleticism and his instincts.”
Caston averaged 55.5 points per game last year, their most in 10 years. Now the goal will be to try and improve on that with a different cast.
“I think there are templates or a framework that we start from,” Davis said. “But within that framework, obviously, each team is going to make it their own, and they’re might be actions that we ran a lot in the past that don’t necessarily fit with this group.
But really looking at this year’s group, there are some similarities. There are some guys that can score inside. There are some guys that can score from the perimeter. There are guys that are really good at attacking the rim. So I think in the regards of some of those pieces, I think our strengths match some of the things we did last year, but at the same time, I think we might run some lineups out there that are a little bit different.”
However, there still might be some unknown characteristics that one will find out only until the games start. Davis said there is nothing that can replicate the intensity of a varsity game during offseason work.
“I don’t remember having this much turnover before,” Davis said. “I spent a lot of time this offseason watching JV film from last year just because there were so many kids that are moving up to varsity this year. I think the positive thing with that is those kids have played together in the past. They have a season or two for some of them where they have played quite a bit together. So now it’s just a matter of meshing them with our returning varsity players from last year and figuring out what works best for those groups.”
Nov. 22 – vs. Lakeland Christian, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 29 – vs. Lewis Cass, 8 p.m. (Cass County Invitational semifinal)
Dec. 3 – vs. Pioneer or Logansport (Cass County Invitational at Logansport)
Dec. 9 – vs. Carroll (Flora), 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 10 – at Frontier, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 16 – vs. Knox, 8 p.m.
Dec. 28-29 – at Miami County Invitational
Jan. 6 – at Culver, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 7 – vs. Delphi, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 14 – at West Central, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 17 – vs. Rochester, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 20 – vs. Winamac, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 27 – at Pioneer, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 28 – vs. Northfield, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 2 – at North White, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 4 – at Triton, 2:30 p.m.
Feb. 7 – vs. Argos, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 10 – at North Judson, 8 p.m.
Feb. 14 – at Lewis Cass, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 17 – vs. LaVille, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 23 – at North Miami, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 28-March 4 – Class 1A, Sectional 52 at West Central
Caston boys basketball team