Winamac boys b-ball preview: After unusual season, Warriors bring back top scorers Compton, Brandt
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
The big difference between the Winamac boys basketball team’s pre-Christmas schedule last year and their pre-Christmas schedule this year is that they actually have one this year.
Two long COVID-related pauses, plus a football season that didn't end until the regional, meant that Winamac did not play their first game last season until Dec. 22.
Winamac eventually played 23 games in a 70-day span, and they went 6-17. The season ended with a loss to Lewis Cass in the sectional quarterfinals.
“Last year, our program got shut down a couple times before Christmas,” Huggler said. “So the uncertainty as much as anything, knowing what was going to be next: Are you going to play the next game? Are you going to practice next week? It kind of led us to make some decisions early on. We wanted to try to simplify a few things, maybe not try some new things that we would have tried at both ends of the court. … Once we got going towards the last half of the season, our JV got shut down at least once, but otherwise, it was pretty much basketball as normal. We’re just hoping that things work out well this year and practice every day.
This year, Winamac will play seven games before Christmas, including Tuesday’s season opener at home against Twin Lakes. A group of 11 players with previous varsity experience return. That group includes Russell Compton and Beau Brandt, last year’s top two scorers.
“He’s a combo guard,” Huggler said of Compton. “He can handle the ball some, but he definitely needs to score. We want him off the ball some, whether it be coming off screens or looking to drive to the basket. He’s also got some physical strength and can post up other guards at times. I think he’ll be off the ball more than on it, but he’s worked at improving his left hand and being able to drive either way. I think that will be able to help him and help us.”
Brandt is a rugged 5-11 senior forward.
“I’d say 75 to 80 percent of the time,” Huggler answered when asked how often Brandt had to guard or box out a taller opponent. “He’s always guarding somebody bigger than him. He doesn’t back down from anybody. It’s to his advantage if a big guy is guarding him on the perimeter. He’s used to battling guys around the basket. He’s also used to taking the ball outside and taking guys on the dribble. He’s not afraid. He can front the post. He can box out and can challenge about anybody inside.”
Other senior returnees include point guard Ryan Gregor, forward Jaden Terry, forward Alex Stark and 6-5 center Logan Schultz.
Juniors include Sawyer DePoy, Evan Eaton, Michael Loehmer and Chase Keller.
John Malchow and Jayse Bentle saw varsity minutes as freshmen and could see more extended minutes as sophomores.
Brendan Hines is a 5-8 freshman who could also be a part of the mix at guard.
The key to success could be finding ways to score more points. In their first season after 1,188-point scorer Will Larkin graduated, Winamac’s team scoring average dropped from 50 to 41.6.
Winamac scored fewer than 40 points 10 times last season, and they went 1-9 in those games.
“We’re still working on improving our shooting and our shot selection,” Huggler said. “That’s going to be an ongoing process. I think we’ll be a better shooting team, but we’re still not where we want to be there. We are looking at pushing the ball. We’d like to be a team that scores in transition more. Maybe we can create some more turnovers and score in transition that way as well. I think it’s a fun way to play, to push the ball; we’ve just got to get in better condition if we want to do that.”
Winamac Warriors schedule
Nov. 23 – vs. Twin Lakes, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 3 – vs. at Rochester, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 7 – at Plymouth, 7:45 p.m.
Dec. 10 – at LaVille, 8 p.m.
Dec. 14 – at Culver, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 17 – vs. Triton, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 18 – vs. Manchester, 7:45 p.m.
Dec. 29-30 – Red and Blue Classic at Boone Grove-Hebron (field includes Illiana Christian, Marquette Catholic, River Forest, Tri-County, Hebron, South Bend Career Academy, Boone Grove)
Jan. 8 – vs. Knox, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 14 – vs. North Judson, 8 p.m.
Jan. 15 – vs. Oregon-Davis, 6:30 p.m.
Jan. 21 – vs. Caston, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 22 – at Delphi, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 28 – at West Central, 6 p.m.
Jan. 29 – vs. LaCrosse, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 3 – vs Lewis Cass, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 8 – at Logansport, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 10 – at North White, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 18 – at Pioneer, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 25 – vs. Rensselaer, 8 p.m.
March 1-5 – Class 2A, Sectional 37 at Winamac