Gunther Balensiefer is the lone senior among a young backcourt that also will feature junior Jacob Turner and sophomore Austin Dixon, who will be a starter.
Coach Kyle Marlatt was effusive with his praise of Dixon, a nephew of Benton Central’s single-season scoring record-holder, Joe Dixon.
“He is a sophomore whose name is going to be known,” Marlatt said. “Austin has a natural shot, naturally gifted. He can handle the ball. He played a little bit of varsity last year. We didn’t want to bring him up too soon but when he did come in, he was the second-leading scorer in two games.”
There’s more experience here, and height, with 6-foot-6 senior Tyler Souligne, and 6-3 juniors Henry Fisher and Jack Marquie.
“We have a lot of guys coming back this year so everybody has a different attitude going into the season,” said Souligne, who averaged 10.7 points and 7.4 rebounds a year ago. “I feel like I’m stronger. I hope I can be more aggressive and be a leader.”
Fisher was the Bison’s second-leading rebounder last season at 6.4 a game. Marquie averaged 7.2 points a game and was BC’s top 3-point shooter with 26.
Senior Nick Fischbach played in every game last season, and at 6-1 is a reliable rebounder and free throw shooter.
“We have the height. We have the length,” Marlatt said.
David McKinsey is a large (6-5, 220 pounds) addition to the Bison roster, having moved in from Merrillville.
“He’s never played before but you can’t pass up that type of height,” Marlatt said.
Sophomores Cole Charlesworth and Devin Crabtree provide additional height at 6-3 and 6-1, respectively.
Marlatt believes this is the best Benton Central team he’s seen in years, and with four returning starters and nine varsity lettermen on the roster, he could be right. An outstanding summer record of 24-8 that included victories over larger schools such as Portage and Columbia City fueled his optimism.
“The pieces are coming together,” Marlatt said. “We have the veterans, we have the experience and it makes for a better team. We’ve got a team that’s clicking, working together. I couldn’t be more proud or more impressed with what they’ve done. We’ve put a lot of time and effort in the summer to get everything where we want it to be this year.
“I hope I don’t eat my words at the end of the season because my expectation for this team is above and beyond.”
Souligne shares those high expectations after playing for Bison teams that have gone 3-19, 12-10 and 6-16 the past three years. Souligne says he’s hungry to win.
“My freshman year we struggled and sophomore year, we could have been a lot better than we were,” Souligne said. “It’s coach Marlatt’s second year so we know what he expects. We have higher expectations coming into the year.”
— Ken Thompsonfirstname.lastname@example.org