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  • Val T.

Tippecanoe Valley boys basketball preview:

With Shepherd hurting, Vikes seek scoring from different sources


BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS

Sports Editor, RTC


It is seemingly the question every Tippecanoe Valley boys basketball observer has asked since last season ended: Who is going to score on this year’s team?

Tayde Kiser, Nolan Cumberland, Cooper Walls and Dylan Neese combined for 38 of Valley’s 55 points in a loss to John Glenn in the Class 3A, Sectional 18 quarterfinals, but they all graduated from a team that finished 18-6.

And if there was not already some mystery to that question, Riley Shepherd is out until December with a foot injury. Shepherd scored nine points in that John Glenn game.

That leaves 6-6 big men Kyler Johnson and Stephen Akase as the only players who scored in that sectional game who are back this year.

“100 percent,” second-year Valley coach Joe Luce said when asked if he was using the summer activities to see who could score. “We can teach guys to defend. We can mix things up. If you rebound, which is the most important part of defense in my opinion, then you have a really good chance to keep within a game where in the fourth quarter you have a chance to win. But if you can’t score or if you have kids that are not confident or haven’t done it before at any level, then you’re challenged.”

Luce raved about the leadership that Kiser and Cumberland showed. Talking about a win at Manchester last year that was one of the season highlights, Luce said that Cumberland “was not going to let us lose” and that was why they won more than any coaching adjustment.

But without them, he said this year’s offense will be more “scripted.”

Ian Cooksey is a 6-3 sharpshooting junior who Luce said “needs to be our go-to guy” and “will start from day one.”

“I thought Ian Cooksey had a good JV season,” Luce said. “He scored at times. He showed spurts of being able to put the basketball in the hole this summer. He did a great job. Now summer’s different. We’re not playing with scouting reports. He’s going to get chased. He’s going to double-teamed. But he had multiple games that he scored an extreme amount of points, over 30 points and played very well. He can shoot the basketball. Again, totally different in the summer. But just the fact that he made that many shots in a game with two referees, I was pleased.”

Akase is a sophomore who started last year on the JV but was a varsity starter by the end of the season.

“Stephen Akase continues to get better,” Luce said. “He’s such a raw talent. He’s always going to play in that post, but we moved him away from the post 100 percent. He’s worked on his ballhandling, his shooting. He has a real nice pullup (jumper), and we feel like we are going to be able to mix him in and out, so that he can drive the basketball and gives us that look.”

A newcomer at point guard is Davis Cowan, who moved in from Fort Wayne Canterbury.

“He’s a different kind of point guard than Tayde,” Luce said. “He’s more of a distributing point guard. He makes open shots. He finishes really good at the rim. But he’s very conscious of his teammates, very conscious of putting it in a shooting pocket, throwing it up so guys can go catch it or (making a) bounce pass. He’s just a really good leader out there. We’re excited that he decided to move to Tippecanoe Valley and honored that he recognized our program is in a good spot and his family felt good about our high school. They value the same things that our high school values.”

Luce also said 6-2 junior forward DeOndre Hamilton has been “a different kid” in practice and can also finish at the rim, score in the paint with a jump hook and score from the perimeter. Luce also said he’s a good defender.

And then there is Shepherd, who continues to rehab a foot injury that he broke and then “re-broke,” according to Luce.

“He’s worked hard,” Luce said. “He’s consistent in his rehab, and we hope to get him back by the end of December. … If he can get back before the Delta tournament (Dec. 27-28), then that would be excellent for him.”

As for Johnson, Luce raves about his leadership and “very strong voice” in the locker room and said he’s “one of the greatest kids I’ve ever met.”

But he wants him to utilize his size better.

“He doesn’t play as straight up and as long as I’d like him,” Luce said. “He’s got really good up-and-under stuff. He’s got good finishes, but we’re trying to work on him just realizing he’s a big kid. Go through somebody, get two points or get fouled. And if you get blocked, good for that guy. If you don’t make it due to concentration, that’s on you.”

Blain Sheetz could also start at power forward.

“He’s just steady,” Luce said of Sheetz. “He’s Steady Eddie. He’s consistent.”

Wes Parker, a 6-0 sophomore, will be the first player off the bench, according to Luce.

“Great football season,” Luce said. “The kid matured. When you’re a part of a football program like what we roll out there and you get in the lineup and you do things, it helps you. And so Wes had a great football season. He’s a talented kid – fast, athletic, he shoots it adequate, and he’s tough.”

Coaching changes

B.J. Walls returns as varsity assistant, Shaun Shepherd returns as JV coach, and Kyle Ritchey will be the freshman coach.

Thomas Newcomer is a newcomer to the staff.

Schedule changes

Valley has left the Three Rivers Conference, but four TRC teams – Peru, Rochester, Maconaquah and North Miami – remain on the nonconference schedule.

The Rochester game moves from its mid-January spot on the schedule and is set for Dec. 22 at home.

Valley will play 15 home games, including six in a row to start the season. Three of the six games are against sectional rivals Knox, Bremen and John Glenn.

Additions to the schedule include Fort Wayne South Side (home, Nov. 28), Bremen (home, Dec. 2), Morgan Township (home, Dec. 8), Wheeler (road, Dec. 16), Elkhart (home, Jan. 19), Anderson (home, Jan. 20), Jimtown (home, Jan. 27), Western (road, Feb. 1), Kokomo (road, Feb. 17) and South Bend Washington (home, Feb. 23).

Kokomo was the Class 4A state runner-up last year and features Mr. Basketball candidate and Kansas recruit Flory Bidunga.

The Vikings will also travel to Delta for a tournament Dec. 27-28.

In addition to the 15 home games, Valley will also host Class 3A, Sectional 18. The last time Valley hosted the sectional, they won the sectional in 2006.

The LaVille game has been moved from Saturday to Jan. 9.

Valley will play all five teams in the Indiana Northern State Conference, which will begin next year.

Class 3A, Sectional 18

Bremen, Culver Academy, John Glenn, Knox, TIPPECANOE VALLEY

Schedule

Nov. 22 – vs. Mishawaka, 7:30 p.m.

Nov. 28 – vs. Fort Wayne South Side, 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 1 – vs. Knox, 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 2 – vs. Bremen, 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 8 – vs. Morgan Township, 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 9 – vs. John Glenn, 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 15 – at Peru, 7:45 p.m.

Dec. 16 – at Wheeler, 2:30 p.m.

Dec. 22 – vs. Rochester, 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 27-28 – at Delta tournament

Jan. 6 – vs. Plymouth, 7:45 p.m.

Jan. 9 – vs. LaVille, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 13 – at Maconaquah, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 19 – vs. Elkhart, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 20 – vs. Anderson, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 27 – vs. Jimtown, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 1 – at Western, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 6 – vs. North Miami, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 17 – at Kokomo, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 20 – vs. Warsaw, 7:45 p.m.

Feb. 23 – vs. South Bend Washington, 7:45 p.m.

Feb. 27-March 2 – Class 3A, Sectional 18 at Valley


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