Changes abound for THS boys basketball team
Tonganoxie High will begin the year with a bit of a makeover.
First, the Chieftain boys basketball team will sport new uniforms when its season starts Thursday.
Last year's record: 12-11 Postseason finish: lost in substate finals to Atchison, 66-55 Top returners: Jacob Walker, sr.; Shane Howard, jr.; Joe Calovich, jr.; Jon Gripka, sr.
Coach: David Walker
Year at school: second
Record at THS: 12-11
Year overall: seventh
Record overall: 65-58
Alma maters, years: Fort Osage (Mo.), '86; Ottawa, '90
Second, THS will kick off the season different from recent years with a preseason tournament.
And third, the team's new look will include a cast that lost five seniors.
So when Tonganoxie opens the season, about the only familiar thing will be the opponent. The Chieftains open with Atchison, the team that denied them a shot at state in a Class 4A substate championship game last year.
But even that has been altered.
"I think we're two totally different teams from last year," coach David Walker said, as the Redmen also graduated a large senior class.
Gone from last year's 12-11 team are leading scorer Bryan Gurss, Jordan Glenn, Matt Alexander, Thomas Gilner and Kraig LaRosh. Gurss and Gilner were both roughly 6-5, while Gilner stood at 6-3.
The Chieftains won't have quite the height, but they return 6-4 junior Joe Calovich.
"I think we did lose some size, but I think we did replace it with speed," Walker said. "We also have a little more depth than last year."
It could be difficult to replace Gurss, who scored 14.6 points a game, while Glenn and Gilner had 6.6 and 6.1 respectively. But the Chieftains do return senior Jacob Walker, the team's second-leading scorer with 8.9, while Calovich and fellow junior Shane Howard each had 5.5 averages.
The Chieftains, who completed their first winning season in 10 years last March, also welcome back seniors Jon Gripka, Chad Turner, and Brad Reischman.
Tonganoxie likely will go with similar offensive schemes this year, but Walker would like to increase pressure on defense.
"Defensively we'll try to push it up the floor," Walker said. "Meaning we pick up our men a little quicker and make mismatches as far as size goes."
The Chieftains might not have problems in that department, as Atchison was a smaller team last year, but the quick Redmen could pose problems. And as Walker said, two different teams are playing this year.
Atchison's tournament provides Tonganoxie with a different start to the season as well. The Chieftains usually begin the season a week later with a regular-season opener, but that's not the case this fall. The second-year Chieftain coach hopes the team will be in good shape despite fewer practices.
"It's different with four less practices," he said. "It makes me a little nervous but I know that those team's are also in that boat."
THS and Atchison tip-off at 8:15 p.m. Thursday in Atchison.