But several key players return for the 2015-16 edition of the Spartans, which has head coach Kerry Brown and his staff enthused about the upcoming four months.
CHS opens the season tonight against Union County in the annual Thanksgiving Eve battle at Spartan Bowl (7:30 p.m.) If all goes as planned, Connersville will be 1-0 when it travels to Indianapolis Saturday to play Broad Ripple.
“We’re excited. We think we have a good opportunity to have a really good year,” Brown told court traveler sports. “But we’ll have to work at it hard because we lost three starters who had a very big impact on our team. I hope our returning players realize how important that loss is and I’m sure they do and they will step up.”
CHS, which finished 16-11 last season, returns a talented group with plenty of experience. The Spartans advanced to the championship game of the Class 4A sectonal last March but lost to longtime nemesis Richmond, 46-33.
Leading the returnees is 6-2 senior Tyler Billups, who averaged just under 10 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists per game. Versatile 6-3 junior Grant Smith was good for nearly 6 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists, scrappy 6-0 senior Chandler Graves chipped in nearly 2.5 points and 2.5 boards, hard-working 6-4 junior Beau Isaacs averaged just under 3 points and 2 rebounds, and promising 5-11 sophomore guard Garrett Silcott tallied 1.8 points and an assist each contest.
“We’ve got some really good kids and the guys really worked hard during the summer and it shows,” said Brown. “I’ve been fortunate through the years I’ve been here because we’ve always had good kids who work hard.”
Brown, 75-68 in his seven years at CHS, said he wants the team to improve as the season progresses. And he hopes some of his non-starters step up to provide depth and allow the team to play well no matter who’s on the court.
“We need to develop some good depth. We don’t know who our seven through 10 players are yet and being able to go seven or eight deep would be a nice luxury to have,” he said. “And we need balance. We need people on the floor that can contribute and we think we’ve got that.”
Strong fundamentals and total team play will be vital to the team’s fortunes, according to the coach.
“We plan to always play good defense, and to rebound the basketball — always,” he said. “We will be a team and play as a team — make the extra pass, find your open teammate, have each others’ backs. We have to play as a team and we will.”
Brown said he thinks the New Castle sectional will be as competitive as it has since he’s been the CHS coach. And the Spartans, he said, will be ready to battle for the trophy.
“I think we’re right there with everybody else. I think winning the conference championship again and winning the sectional are attainable goals.”
Connersville defeated Union County, 53-41, last year. The Patriots, coached by Mark Detweiler, finished the season 13-12.
Key losses for CHS: Steady point guard Andrew Stine (6.1 pts, 4.2 assists, 3.8 reb);
Outside shooting threat Ty Miller (9.6 pts, 1.4 reb.);
Solid inside player Micah Kelley (9.0 pts, 4.6 reb.).
If you can’t make it to tonight’s game, you can listen to the action on Kmix 106.9 radio or http://kmix1069.com/ featuring announcers Sam Harvey and Dave Pollard. Harvey will be honored by the IHSAA during halftime. The 25-year radio voice of the Spartans will receive the 2015-16 Distinguished Media Service Award for District 3.
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