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  • Val T.

Tippecanoe Valley boys basketball preview: Luce’s first Valley team includes Cumberland, Kiser

BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS

Sports Editor, RTC

Joe Luce might be starting his 21st season as a high school basketball coach, but even coaches that have been around for 21 years can still get butterflies before the first game of the season.

That might be especially true given that this is his first season at Tippecanoe Valley and it comes after not coaching the past three seasons.

“I say this all the time,” Luce said. “I wake up paranoid every day to make sure I work hard enough and put in the hours to be an adult leader for our team that can give them enough resources that they can be successful. … I wake up every day with butterflies, making sure that I check all the boxes on my list of things I have to do.

“And I am excited. I missed coaching. I saw more games probably away from coaching than I did when I did coach because I was constantly at a high school or a college basketball game. I was anxious and very excited, yet there were nerves when we had our first practice. As we were preparing and putting together a scouting report, yeah, there are butterflies that are there, and I know when I step on the sideline to get it started, it will be a good feeling of anxiety that I’m glad to be back doing what I love.”

His first Valley team consists of four seniors, two of which were first-team all-Three Rivers Conference players last year in forward Nolan Cumberland and point guard Tayde Kiser.

Cumberland has been on the Valley varsity since his freshman season, and he starts his senior campaign with 724 career points.

“The biggest thing I’ve noticed with Nolan is he needs to understand how good of a player he is,” Luce said. “More self-aware of the skills that he has, reflective of the work that he’s put in. I’ve coached a lot of guys, and Nolan is right up there with many of the great ones I’ve coached as far as time in the gym, effort in the gym when he’s in the gym, and when he becomes self-aware of how much time he’s put in and the skill development that he has added to his game and mentally he’s not passive in not stepping into a leading scorer’s role and not passive about taking a shot even if it’s two or three in a row and realizing that’s not being a shot hunter but that’s being a good offensive player and a good teammate because he’s a very capable scorer and his game is going to progress.

“I think as he gains confidence in playing in a role that needs him to score in the upper teens for us to be good, you’re going to see the type of player that I know Nolan Cumberland can be.”

Kiser, who played the 2020-21 season at Warsaw before transferring back to Valley, returns for another season at point guard.

“Tayde Kiser is a very intelligent basketball player,” Luce said. “I’ve enjoyed getting to know Tayde and find out more about his knowledge of the game. He understands spacing. He understands pace. He understands time and score, what type of shots need to take place, whether we shot three 3s in a row and we need to go to the paint. And that can be off the drive or off the pass.

“But Tayde Kiser is a point guard. I’ll say this numerous times: For us to be successful, Tayde’s probably going to take a hit in the scoring column, but he’s going to see even more time with the ball in his hands, and he’s going to see his assists rise. And the thing Tayde also has to do as a point guard is limit those turnovers.”

The other seniors are 5-10 guard Cooper Walls and 6-3 forward Dylan Neese.

The third leading returning scorer is 6-5 junior Riley Shepherd. An accomplished 3-point shooter, Luce would like Shepherd to expand his game.

“Riley wants to be a good basketball player,” Luce said. “And I’ve told him since the first time I met him that I’ve never fallen in love with a guy’s jump shot. I’ve fallen in love with guys’ games that I’ve coached. Being a basketball player doesn’t mean that you have to be a complete player. … To be a great defensive player doesn’t mean you have to be a great ballhandler or great shooter, but to potentially be a great player means that you have to have more than one thing that you add to the team. Riley does shoot the ball very accurately from the 3-point line, but he’s also capable of going to the post, he’s capable of rebounding, and defensively, he’s been much better. His awareness defensively is much better. I think you’re going to see a more complete player that is most definitely not just going to rely on playing a great game by making 3-point shots.”

Shepherd is the only junior with more than brief varsity experience coming into the season. The other juniors include Trent Marshall, Nate Parker, Cameron Manuel and Kyler Johnson.

Johnson is 6-6 and is adapting to a new role in Luce’s system.

“The way we play is we don’t really play with a post,” Luce said. “We’ll play kind of a hybrid post. They’ll be in the short corners a lot. They’ll be in elbows where they’ll start. They’ll roll into post-ups. In our transition game, he’ll be able to shoot the transition 3-point shot if it comes up. Primarily, he’ll play with his back to the basket or out of the short corner or the elbow where he’s got one bounce to get to the rim. I think Kyler’s going to surprise some people with the skill development that he’s had in the offseason. He’s a winner. He comes from that football program that puts out kids that know how to win, how to compete. And he’s going to bring a definite edge to our team when it comes to competing.”

Ian Cooksey, Blain Sheetz and DeOndre Hamilton are the team’s three sophomores. Stephen Akase, who is listed at 6-6, is the lone freshman.

Valley allowed only 48 points per game last year, their best defensive scoring average since the 2013-14 season. That helped them double their win total from seven to 14.

“The big key to our season will be on that defensive end,” Luce said. “Again it goes back to philosophy. Everybody’s different, but I’ve never thought you had to trick anybody if you had the ability to be better than somebody.”

When asked about what fundamentals he has stressed, Luce talked not about shooting, passing, dribbling or rebounding but about the mentality needed to pull through in tough games.

“For this team to be successful, it’s going to be more about the fundamentals that make up toughness,” Luce said. “Toughness is not pushing somebody in the back or a cheap elbow, but toughness is finding a way to get a rebound to finish a defensive possession. Toughness is knocking down a free throw with 10 seconds to go in the game. Not turning the ball over. Letting the game slow down. Not getting sped up. That’s toughness to me is if you can mentally keep yourself under control and keep your body under control, look up the floor and not put pressure on yourself but put pressure on the defense by attacking them. That’s a fundamental skill that I think is very important to be successful.”

Coaching staff

While Luce is new to the Valley community, the three members of his coaching staff all have previous experience within the Valley community.

B.J. Walls moves from JV coach to varsity assistant. Shaun Shepherd, who had been coaching at the middle school level and who is a 1996 Valley grad, is the new JV coach. Kyle Ritchey, a 2008 Valley grad, is the new freshman coach.

Brayden Painter, son of Purdue coach Matt Painter, will be the director of basketball operations and will help with “behind-the-scenes things,” according to Luce.

Schedule

Valley overhauled their schedule, adding a season-opening game with Mishawaka at The Cave for their season opener and a Dec. 22 home game with South Bend Riley. They will also participate in an eight-team tournament at LaPorte in which they will play two games on Dec. 29 and one game on Dec. 30.

Oregon-Davis, Culver, Columbia City and Wawasee are no longer on the schedule.

The LaVille game was moved up to the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and the Mishawaka Marian game was moved to the final Friday of the regular season (Feb. 24).

Valley’s schedule now has 10 home games, 10 road games and three games at the LaPorte tournament.

Luce explained some changes were made before his hiring, and some were made after.

“Our schedule that was inherited when I got here I felt … there wasn’t a thought process in putting that together,” Luce said. “There was a bunch of games on paper that made no sense. Our new athletic director Sam Sturtevant did a fantastic job working on restructuring that.”

Seeing (All-)Stars

Luce has coached four Indiana All-Stars in his coaching career: Julius Mays (Marion, 2008), Scott Wood (Marion, 2009), Joel Okafor (Richmond, 2015) and Tre Coleman (Jeffersonville, 2020).

Nov. 23 – at Mishawaka, 7:30 p.m.

Nov. 26 – at LaVille, 7:30 p.m.

Nov. 29 – vs. Argos, 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 2 – at Knox, 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 10 – vs. John Glenn, 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 16 – vs. Whitko, 7:45 p.m.

Dec. 17 – vs. Peru, 7:45 p.m.

Dec. 22 – vs. South Bend Riley, 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 29 – vs. Lake Central, 12:30 p.m. (at LaPorte tournament)

Dec. 29 – vs. South Bend Adams or Lowell, TBD (at LaPorte tournament)

Dec. 30 – vs. Logansport, Kouts, Hanover Central or LaPorte, TBD (at LaPorte tournament)

Jan. 6 – vs. Northfield, 7:45 p.m.

Jan. 7 – at Plymouth, 7:45 p.m.

Jan. 13 – at Rochester, 7:45 p.m.

Jan. 20 – vs. Southwood, 7:45 p.m.

Jan. 27 – at Manchester, 7:45 p.m.

Feb. 2 – vs. Wabash, 7:45 p.m.

Feb. 4 – vs. Maconaquah, 2:30 p.m.

Feb. 10 – at North Miami, 7:45 p.m.

Feb. 14 – at NorthWood, 7:45 p.m.

Feb. 17 – at Triton, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 21 – at Warsaw, 7:45 p.m.

Feb. 24 – vs. Mishawaka Marian, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 28-March 4 – Class 3A, Sectional 18 at Knox

Class 3A, Sectional 18

Valley, Bremen, Culver Academy, John Glenn, Knox


Tippecanoe Valley boys basketball team


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