The Delaware Hayes boys basketball program didn’t lose much in terms of bodies, with just three seniors lost to graduation, but in terms of production … well, that’s a different story.
Two of the three, Mike Wells and Griffin Kinney, were forces from the perimeter and post, respectively. Wells left as the school’s all-time leading scorer while Kinney was a strong and skilled player down low. The other, Joe Robinson, didn’t play much, but more than made up for any limitations with his basketball IQ.
Moving on without them won’t be easy, but Hayes coach Jordan Blackburn is confident his crew will more than manage this season.
“We will replace them by being balanced on offense and committed to rebounding and on the defensive end,” he said. “Griff is at prep school (Fork Union Military Academy) and has not chosen his school yet. Mike has signed with Albany (N.Y.) and is at St. Thomas More prep school in Conn., and Joe is at Bowling Green and is serving as the team manager with the goal of becoming a college coach.”
Fortunately for the Pacers, they have a stable of standouts from last season’s 16-7 squad back in the fold — experienced leaders who will be able to make the transition a bit smoother.
“We have seven returning lettermen and six seniors who have game experience and work awfully hard in the offseason,” Blackburn said.
Leaders include 6-8 senior forward Alex Stevens, who recently signed a national letter of intent to play college ball at Ohio Dominican; 6-3 senior guard Tyler Treese; 6-2 senior forward Gaige Linville; 6-2 senior forward Jamison Lahman; 6-1 senior guard Jante’ Wright; 6-5 junior forward Khalil Iverson; and 6-2 junior guard Noble Moore.
Blackburn likes the versatility and leadership injected into the team by his senior class.
“Alex is very skilled for his size,” the coach said. “He has improved more in a year than any kid I’ve coached. We expect him to be one of our best defenders and rebounders. Tyler is an excellent leader and a guy everyone responds to. He’s a returning starter, one of our better shooters and passers and a tough kid.
“Gaige is an excellent role player who always competes. He was selected by his teammates as a co-captain with Tyler because the guys respect how hard he goes everyday. He has added some range to his jump shot and showed up in excellent shape. Jamie is a throwback player who comes up with loose balls, defends like crazy and competes. He is our best communicator on the floor … and Jante’ is one of our best athletes. He understands his role and will bring energy to the team off the bench. He will be one of our leaders on our press and can knock down open shots.”
The junior class is a talented one, too.
“Khalil is a D-I recruit who has added dimensions to his game. He is a three-year starter and we expect him to be a solid inside-outside guy. He runs the floor well and is an outstanding athlete. We expect him to be our best defender and to be able to play and guard all positions on the floor.”
“Noble has a great understanding of the game,” Blackburn continued. “He is a three-year starter along with Khalil. Noble has added strength and quickness and is one of our better passers and shooters.”
Others expected to contribute include 6-5 senior guard Philip Frentsos, a skilled player who will likely start due to his ball skills and size; 5-9 sophomore guard Jacob Bourget, a solid on-ball defender who can run the offense; 6-4 junior forward Hayden Dunlap, a scrappy role player; and 5-8 freshman guard Miles Roberts, the fastest kid in the program.
As a group, Blackburn said his guys offer up a lot to like on the basketball court.
“I like the unselfishness and work ethic,” he said. “Our defense gave up 41 points a game last season over the last eight games, we need to carry that over. Right now we need to focus on containing penetration, because it gives the opponent higher percentage shots. We expect all of the teams in our league to be capable of winning on any given night and we have to focus on getting better each day.”