Harper Creek will have a different look this season as the Beavers will have to adjust without its big fish in a little pond.
For several years, Harper Creek boys’ basketball has depended on its big fish – Josh Bass – and worked its offense around the 6-foot-5 double-double machine. Now that the Beavers have lost the 18 points per game and 14 rebounds he brought to the team before he graduated, Harper Creek will have a team that could be more balanced, will be deeper and should be more athletic when it comes to getting the ball up and down the floor in the 2013-14 season.
“When you see us on the floor, we will look a little different because we have different types of people than year’s past,” said Harper Creek coach Matt Bowling. “We are going to be trying to get up an down this year. We have a lot of guys who can get up and down, shoot the ball from the perimeter and it should be an exciting brand of basketball.”
Harper Creek won’t have an established go-to person to start the season, but the Beavers could use that as an advantage as opposing defense won’t be able to focus on one player, as it often did last season.
“We have a new look this year, could be a little more balanced,” said returning senior Trevor Johnson. “We are without that big man in the middle that we looked to a lot last year. But this year we have more options that can all score.”
Johnson is part of core group of returning players who saw time on the court last year. Other senior returners include Mickey Barea, Jason Mueller and Brody Taylor.
The biggest producers returning this season are two underclassmen as James Cadena and Brandon Hutson both started last season as sophomores and will be looked to have expanded roles this year.
“I like where we are at with our mix of guys,” Bowling said. “Our depth is big, plus we have some good chemistry and some good flow to our offense. A lot of these guys have played together for a long time and there’s some familiarity and some consistency there, that will be a plus.”
Other players that could be in the rotation include Zach Testolin, who returns to the program as a senior after sitting out last year, and some young talent up from the junior varsity, including Jack Thompson.
The Beavers could also get a boost from a couple of transfer students from Battle Creek Central in Travon Johnson and Khylen Watkins, who will be eligible to play in January.
“There will be a lot of guys in the playing rotation,” Bowling said. “This is an extremely competitive team. Our lineups could change at any point. We have a lot of guys coming up from the JV that have improved immensely and love to play the game and spent a lot of time in the offseason working on their game. So there’s a lot of competition for minutes.
“Depending on what the other teams bring, we can bring some matchup problems for teams because we could have any number of different lineups out there.”
Harper Creek had an up-and-down season last year at 7-12 in the regular season, but went on a run in the postseason and won a district title before losing in the regionals to finish 10-13.
The Beavers will playing in their final season in the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference East Division as Harper Creek will leave the league to join the Interstate Eight Conference next year. Also leaving the SMAC East this season will be division rivals Marshall and Coldwater, who will also go to the Interstate Eight, as well as Sturgis, which is off to the Wolverine Conference.
The SMAC East was won by Battle Creek Central last season and the Bearcats and city-foe Lakeview will also contend in the league, so this season will be the last time Harper Creek will see its rivals in conference play.
“I like to think we will be in the mix this year in the league,” Bowling said. “I think we are going to be real competitive in the division. We want to go out on a good note, since we are leaving the league this year, and go out as strong as we can.”