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  • Val T.

Caston boys basketball preview: Guards Stinson, Zeider headline Comet returnees


BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS

Sports Editor, RTC


The Caston boys basketball team’s record reversed itself last year.

After graduating their starting five in 2022 – Joey Spin, Kade Zeider, Sam Smith, Bryce Rudicel and Jake Paschen – they went from 15-8 to 8-15 last year. Two of those losses were to Frontier, including a season-ending 44-40 loss in the sectional quarterfinals.

On top of the graduation losses, Caston had an injury-plagued summer of 2022 with Cain Schanlaub and Colby Pugh missing time, making it tough for coach Carl Davis to “get a good picture” of what last year’s team would look like.

This year’s Caston roster features six seniors, including leading returning scorer, rebounder and assist man Caleb Stinson and sharpshooter Talon Zeider.

Two other seniors, Carter Clingler and Alex Craig, will contribute to the guard depth, and there are two senior big men in Corbin Smith and Grant Yadon, both of whom are listed at 6-3.

The spring focused on individual work, and they played 10 to 15 games during the summer.

Stinson (11.5 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 3 apg), Zeider (10.6 ppg) and Yadon are the three most experienced players.

Stinson is known for his quick first step.

“He’s obviously extremely explosive,” Davis said. “He does so many things for us. The big thing for Caleb this offseason as we get going during the regular season is for him to continue to develop good decision making, knowing when to push the pace and maybe when we need to slow down a little bit and get into our offense. I think that’s a big piece of development for him. I think he’s taking better care of the basketball this fall and in the first week of practice. Continuing to do that is going to be a big piece. The other stuff, we know he’s going to go get rebounds and score the basketball when we need him to, but that piece is going to be really important in terms of his development.”

Davis hopes the presence of Talon Zeider puts teams in a bind defensively. If Stinson penetrates, do you collapse on him to prevent him from getting to the basket? Or will the opponent not leave Zeider and possibly give Stinson an avenue to the basket?

Zeider also led the team in steals last year, and Davis noted that he is an improved passer.

Carter Clingler has “worked tirelessly” on his game, according to Davis, and he can both shoot from the outside and score inside.

“We’re really excited about the jump that he’s made from last year to this year,” Davis said.

Craig “wants to do whatever it takes to win,” according to Davis.

Schanlaub graduated, and his 11.3 points and 5.2 rebounds per game.

Smith and Yadon will be filling in.

“Corbin Smith has made a huge jump since last season,” Davis said. “He has put a tremendous amount of time in. He didn’t miss a single basketball workout this offseason. He spent a lot of time outside our facilities here at Caston getting better and seeking opportunities to improve. He’s somebody that has a really good understanding of our offense right now, and then obviously, Grant coming back with his experience, the level of physicality that he brings to the floor is a game-changer.

“When he came back from football that last week before we started practices, the intensity in the gym changed with him just because he is so active and so physical. Those two, I think they’re both going to have great seasons for us at the 5 spot.”

Davis also said that Lane Hook, a 6-2 freshman, could be in the mix in the frontcourt as well. Davis described him as “long and lanky” and said his length allows him to alter shots defensively. Davis has not given extensive minutes to a freshman since Spin and Kade Zeider five years ago.

Josh Evans, who is a top outside shooter, and Max Sommers are the team’s two juniors, though both could see JV time as well.

“Max does a little bit of everything,” Davis said of Sommers.

Gavin Mollenkopf, a 5-11 guard-forward, is the only sophomore in the program.

“Gavin is really active for us on both ends of the floor,” Davis said. “He’s somebody who anticipates things really well and can get his hands on a lot of passes, rebounds well for us, and he’s one of those kids that maybe he doesn’t end the game with eight rebounds, but he’s going to take his guy out of the equation every time and make sure they don’t get any offensive rebounds, which is really key for us. He’s someone who offensive for us, he’s going to find some ways to get some garbage buckets for us just because of how hard he cuts and getting those offensive rebounds, and he’s somebody that I think consistently this summer shot the ball pretty well too, and we’d love to see him continue to shoot with confidence and add that to his role as well.”

The 15-8 season in 2022 followed back-to-back sectional title seasons in 2020 and 2021. Davis was asked if last year was frustrating or a stepping stone for a better season this year.

“I think it was both,” Davis said. “I didn’t feel like we ever got to the point consistently where we needed to be. I think we showed flashes in a number of games, and we did not put four quarters together, and again, I think ultimately that’s on me, that we didn’t find that consistency. But at the same time, we gave some guys coming in that played some major varsity minutes last year, and I think we had a JV team that got better, and some of those guys are going to have to step up and fill new roles this year, but I’m really excited for those lessons learned. I think it’s been apparent to me that they did learn from those experiences, and I’m excited about the year ahead.”

Schedule changes

Caston dropped Northfield and added Tri-County. Caston and Tri-County are rivals in Class 1A, Sectional 52, which Caston will host. Tri-County, who finished 12-13 last year, is the defending sectional champion.

Caston won the sectional the last time it hosted it in 2020.

Coaching changes

Heath Gearhart, a 2008 Caston grad, is back on staff. He has coaching experience in both the Caston and Winamac systems.

Chip Woodhouse returns as JV coach, and Chuck Evans and Braden Chandler also return to the staff.

Davis is in his seventh season as coach. Only Triton’s Jason Groves (19th year) and LaVille’s Michael Edison (16th year) have more experience in the Hoosier North.

In the sectional, Frontier, North White and West Central have new coaches, which means that Davis has more experience than the other five coaches in the sectional combined (five years).

“It makes me feel a little old,” Davis quipped.

Class 1A, Sectional 52

CASTON, Frontier, North White, South Newton, Tri-County, West Central

Schedule

Nov. 21 – at Lakeland Christian, 7:30 p.m.

Nov. 29 – vs. Lewis Cass, 8 p.m. (Cass County Invitational semifinal)

Dec. 1 – vs. Pioneer or Logansport, TBD (Cass County Invitational at Logansport)

Dec. 8 – at Carroll (Flora), 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 9 – vs. Frontier, 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 15 – at Knox, 8 p.m.

Dec. 27-28 – at Miami County Invitational (field includes North Miami, Peru, Maconaquah)

Jan. 5 – vs. Culver, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 6 – at Delphi, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 13 – vs. West Central, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 16 – at Rochester, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 19 – at Winamac, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 26 – vs. Pioneer, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 27 – at Tri-County, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 1 – vs. North White, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 3 – vs. Triton, 2:30 p.m.

Feb. 6 – at Argos, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 9 – vs. North Judson, 8 p.m.

Feb. 13 – vs. Lewis Cass, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 16 – at LaVille, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 22 – vs. North Miami, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 27-March 2 – Class 1A, Sectional 52 at Caston


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