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  • Val T.

Winamac boys basketball preview: ‘The Good Lord opened the doors, and we walked through them:’

Springer’s 40th year in coaching is his first with Warriors


BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS

Sports Editor, RTC

After 39 consecutive years in coaching, Mike Springer took a year off last year.

But when he saw that Winamac had a vacancy in its boys program, it was time to jump back in.

He was hired in May to replace Cameron Bennington, who left after one season to take the boys coaching job at Western.

In his first 39 years of coaching, Springer worked with high school boys, high school girls, college men and college women. He was both the girls and boys coach at Eastern (Greentown), and he coached the 2016 Eastern boys to its first sectional title in 60 years. He also was the head coach for the Cascade boys (1992-95) and the Logansport girls (1998-2000).

“I had taken a year off from coaching, and I was teaching at Eastern High School in Greentown, and I saw the opening and I applied,” Springer said. “I know that there have been some basketball teams here at Winamac. There have been some good coaches come through here through the years. I was like, ‘Let’s just see if they want an old guy that’s been around the block a few times.’ So I applied, and they offered me the job. It helps that my wife is from The Region, so moving from Kokomo to Winamac has made it easier for her to go see her children and grandchildren.

“So with all that, I have a daughter that now lives in LaPorte. So we got closer to family. The Good Lord opened the doors, and we walked through them.”

Springer’s father Bill also coached 40 years and is in the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame. He won eight sectional titles at Southport, most famously taking them to the state finals in 1990. (Southport lost to Damon Bailey-led Bedford North Lawrence 58-55 in the state semifinals that season. The state finals were held at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis. Announced attendance was 41,046, which is still a record for a high school basketball game in Indiana.)

Springer was born in Indianapolis and “moved around” as a kid. He graduated from Bloomington South but has wended his way north over the years. He started his collegiate playing career at Hanover College and later transferred to Taylor University, where he played for famed coach Paul Patterson and then later coached under him for five years.

“Most of my early years were spent south of (Indiana) 40, and most of my adult life has been spent, I would say, north of Kokomo,” Springer said. “I was blessed to be raised in a family where he happened to finish his career as a Hall of Fame coach. He was coaching long before I got to him, and I just enjoyed it.”

Springer was hired in May. He and his wife moved to Winamac in July.

“We just felt like it was a welcoming community,” Springer said. “The people in our school system, the teachers in our high school and our middle school, have been very … welcoming and helpful and encouraging. It’s been a very positive thing. … And I was in a very positive situation at Eastern. But again, I really prayed about it, and the Lord opened the door for us to come here, and we have been welcomed by a lot of people.

“But we haven’t played a game yet, so I’m still undefeated.”

Jayse Bentle, John Malchow, Maddox Bucinski and Ayden Jimenez are the team’s four seniors.

Bentle and Malchow are listed as wings while Bucinski and Ayden Jimenez are posts. Jimenez – his nickname is “Jimmy” and he is also a starting offensive and defensive lineman on the football team – came back out for basketball after taking a year off last year, and Springer complimented his post defense.

Junior point guard Brendan Hines and sophomore wing Will Malchow – he and John are brothers – are other key returnees.

Other juniors include Aiden Schooler and Brayden Mathias. Schooler is back after taking a tear off, but Springer said he has a lot of experience and is “ready to go.”

Other sophomores include Justin Potthoff and Ethan Burgess.

Springer said Hines is more of a point guard than a shooting guard but is also capable of scoring.

Bentle can handle it and can get to the basket.

John Malchow is a versatile scorer.

“John Malchow is a very, very good basketball player,” Springer said. “He can handle the ball for us, and he can score some points from the 3 or from getting to the basket.”

Springer also said Potthoff is a capable ballhandler.

“I think that that’s one thing that we’ve got with all of our kids is that they’re somewhat interchangeable,” Springer said. “Jayse is 6-1, 6-2. John is as well. Pothhoff is 6-1, 6-2. And then you throw Will Malchow, who is 6-2 as well. We just got a good mix of kids that can play inside and outside if we need them to.”

Winamac cut its defensive scoring average from 53.4 ppg two years ago to 49.4 last year under Bennington. However, their scoring margin went from -4.1 ppg to -7.0 ppg, and they went 9-16.

“Well, we are going to be aggressive,” Springer said. “We are going to play a lot of man, play a lot of zone. We’ll play both. We’ll even find some pressing in there. But probably most of all, our kids are going to play really hard on the defensive end. What I really want them to be is a team that plays together on the defensive end that can help each other and communicate with each other and that can make each other trust in one another. If we can do that, I think we can have some really positive things happen for us defensively, which will help us offensively as well.”

Winamac is in search of their first sectional title since 2015. Springer was asked what it feels like to win a sectional.

“At Eastern, we won a sectional for the first time in 60 years,” Springer said. “As a coach, for myself as a former player, winning a sectional is something that you get remembered by. They put your team up on the wall. They have a picture of you. They put some numbers on the banners in the gym. You cut down a piece of the net. That’s a pretty special thing for me as a coach. I want the kids to be able to live those special moments as players.

“Basketball has been really good to me. I’ve been able to do lots of stuff through basketball. I tell our kids I want them to really feel good about playing basketball and the experience – not just winning and losing games but the teamwork and the camaraderie they build with their teammates and young kids looking up to them as varsity players. I just think all that is really important as part of the process of becoming the best team you can become.”

Coaching changes

Aaron Hines returns from Bennington’s staff as the varsity assistant coach. Matt Swartzell has moved up from “C” team coach to JV coach. Andy Stepp will help with the “C” team.

Schedule changes

Plymouth is off Winamac’s schedule. DeMotte Christian has replaced them, and they will meet in the regular season finale on Feb. 22.

The Manchester game was moved in the schedule to Dec. 5, and the Rensselaer game will be played on Feb. 1, which is the Thursday of girls basketball sectionals week.

Lewis Cass will host Class 2A, Sectional 36 from Feb. 27-March 2.

Class 2A, Sectional 36

Lewis Cass, North Miami, Pioneer, Rochester, Wabash, WINAMAC

Schedule

Nov. 21 – vs. Twin Lakes, 7:30 p.m.

Nov. 25 – vs. North Newton, 2:30 p.m.

Dec. 1 – at Rochester, 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 5 – vs. Manchester, 7:45 p.m.

Dec. 8 – at LaVille, 8 p.m.

Dec. 12 – at Culver, 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 15 – vs. Triton, 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 18-22 – Indiana Kitchen Classic

Jan. 5 – vs. Knox, 8 p.m.

Jan. 9 – vs. Northfield, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 12 – vs. North Judson, 8 p.m.

Jan. 13 – vs. Oregon-Davis, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 19 – vs. Caston, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 20 – at Delphi, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 26 – at West Central, 7 p.m.

Feb. 1 – vs. Rensselaer, 8 p.m.

Feb. 3 – at Westville, 1:30 p.m.

Feb. 6 – at Logansport, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 8 – at North White, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 16 – at Pioneer, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 22 – vs. DeMotte Christian, 8 p.m.

Feb. 27-March 2 – Class 2A, Sectional 36 at Lewis Cass


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