HYDE — Following the greatest three-season run in Clearfield Area High School boys basketball history, the 2017-18 Bison will be out to establish their own identity with one returning starter and five other lettermen.
Senior guard Reese Wilson joined a quartet of now-departed standouts for the opening tips last season when the Bison stampeded to a second consecutive Mountain League title and a third District 9 championship before falling to McGuffey in a 48-46 heart-breaker to finish 23-2.
Seniors Jon Gates and Ryan Chew were in the eight-player rotation utilized in crunch time most nights by coach Nate Glunt, while senior Wyatt Porter and juniors Keagan Hess and Taye Lynch also saw enough action to letter.
They will team with sophomore Cade Walker to comprise a group of seven Glunt is counting on to fill starting roles.
“A lot will depend on who we’re playing and those match-ups,” he said.
Glunt tabbed senior Josh Geppert and freshmen Jake Lezzer and Karson Rumsky as “three more guys who will be playing a lot of varsity basketball. And Barrett Kline also will be in the mix.”
Though rebuilding or reloading aren’t in Glunt’s vocabulary, his fourth Bison squad must overcome the loss of 84 percent of last season’s 1,687 points that produced a 67.5 average, most likely the best in program history.
The big guns were Tommy Hazel with 446 (18.8 ppg), all-time scoring king and All-State selection Will Myers with 434 (17.4 ppg) and Evan Brown with 365 (14.6 ppg). The trio also averaged 21.7 rebounds and 6.5 steals.
Myers, a rare four-year starter named to the All-Mountain League Team four times with two Most Valuable Player honors, bypassed Clearfield’s first seven 1,000-point scorers while ascending to No. 1 with a total of 1,436.
Hazel, selected to three Mountain League All-Star Teams, joined the club with 1,147 points, good for seventh place.
David McKenzie, the fourth member of the foursome that started three years in a row and compiled a terrific 66-9 record with all the Mountain League and District 9 titles, scored 97 points but was more important on both ends of the floor with his playmaking, rebounding and defense, while top reserve Ethan McGinnis and Jarrit Wagner added 43 and 13, respectively.
“It was a special group,” Glunt said. “They set the example of how to work hard, of how to commit to the team, of having enthusiasm, of believing in each other and the coaches and about doing things right all the time, treating their friends and their teachers the right way.”
While establishing realistic goals of a winning season and competing for the District 9 Class AAAA championship, Glunt is excited where this team will wind up as it matures and improves.
“We have a really good group of kids, and our big goal is to be better at the end of the season than we are right now because of our inexperience,” he said. “It’s different when it’s for real, so we have to gain game experience.
“We had great participation and commitment in the off-season, and we’ve had two good weeks of practice.”
Wilson, who scored 79 points as a junior on a team loaded with senior firepower, will operate in the backcourt with Chew (35 points), Hess, Rumsky and Porter.
Gates (74 points) and Walker will be on the wings, while Lynch and Lezzer will be the forwards.
“We have good athleticism,” Glunt said of the overall team speed and quickness. “We have four guys who can dunk.”
Rebounding and ballhandling will be keys to the Bison’s success.
“If you can rebound, you increase your opportunities to get more shots and you increase your stops,” he said. “I think we can be a solid rebounding team. Some of the best rebounders aren’t the biggest guys. It comes down to technique and wanting to go get the ball. Our guys have done a good job of that so far.
“I think to score a lot we need to take care of the basketball. If you’re aggressive and trying to make a play, you’re going to turn the ball over, but it can’t be a lot. If we limit our mistakes, we’ll have the opportunities to put points on the board. A lot of time, your scoring is dependent on your opponent and their style of play.”
On defense, the Bison will challenge opponents with their suffocating man defense.
“We really try to play team defense,” Glunt explained. “It should look like a zone because of our switching and being in the proper gap position.”
As for the schedule, he expects the Bison to be really tested most nights.
“Our schedule is going to be extremely tough,” he said. “Almost every team has improved from last year. In the league, I think Central and us probably have the most inexperience.”
The Bison open Friday at home against Curwensville.
Glunt’s assistants are former Bison head coach Donnie Shimmel, Erik Brown, Dan Smay, Pete Hess, Jason Gill, Pat Pallo and Scott way.
The roster, with (*) denoting letterwinner:
Seniors – Jake Billotte, 6-4; Ryan Chew (*), 5-10; Jon Gates (*), 6-2; Josh Geppert, 5-9; Wyatt Porter (*), 5-9; Reese Wilson (*), 6-3.
Juniors — Keagan Hess (*), 6-2; Barrett Kline, 6-1; Taye Lynch (*), 6-2.
Sophomores — Kandyn Hudson, 5-11; Andrew Lopez, 6-0; John McKenzie, 6-3; Cade Walker, 6-3.
Freshmen –– Jake Lezzer, 6-1; Simon Quigley, 5-9; Matt Pallo, 5-9; Curvy Purkett, 6-3; Karson Rumsky, 6-0; Luke Winters, 5-8.
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The schedule, with (ML) designating Mountain League games and tip-offs for 7:30 p.m. unless noted:
8 – CURWENSVILLE; 13 – CENTRAL (ML); 15 – at Huntingdon (ML); 20 – at Bellefonte (ML); 28 – Harmony at Purchase Line Lions Club Christmas Tournament, 6 p.m.; 29 – Morgantown (W.Va.) Academy or Purchase Line at Purchase Line Lions Club Christmas Tournament, TBA.
5 – TYRONE (ML); 8 – at Punxsutawney; 10 – at Bald Eagle Area (ML); 12 – PENNS VALLEY (ML); 15 – at Clarion-Limestone, 8 p.m.; 16 – at Philipsburg-Osceola (ML); 19 – at Central (ML); 22 – DuBois; 24 – HUNTINGDON (ML); 26 – BELLEFONTE (ML); 30 – at Tyrone (ML).
1 – at Brookville; 2 – BALD EAGLE AREA (ML); 7 – at Penns Valley (ML); 9- PHILIPSBURG-OSCEOLA (ML); 12 – at Curwensville.