This will be a veteran Red Devil team on the floor this season.
Richmond aims to turn that experience into big-time wins.
Richmond’s roster is made up entirely of juniors and seniors, a fact boys basketball coach Joe Luce points to as a strong suit for the Devils.
“The bottom line is we have to get that done and produce and find a way to win,” Luce said. “No better way to do it than with a team that’s heavy with seniors, heavy with experience and a team that’s very talented.
“I think it’s the right group to get some special things done.”
Several seniors will lead the way for RHS — Kendal Baker, Nick Thomas, Abdul Shabazz, Mike Tillman, Devin Thomas and Zach Lett.
Some juniors will lend their services as well in guards Davious Webster, Joel Okafor and Isaiah Rader, and forward Auntonio Brown.
This is the third varsity season for both Webster and Okafor, who have drawn strong attention from college coaches. Webster and Okafor each averaged nearly 10 points per game last season.
Okafor also dished a team-high 107 assists and led the Devils in rebounding with 5.3 per game.
“(They) played a lot of minutes as sophomores,” Luce said of Okafor and Webster. “They are getting a chance to get on the floor as upperclassmen now. We’re also looking forward to an entire group of varsity guys who are juniors and seniors. I think that’s when your program is the strongest, when that can happen.”
Shabazz averaged 6.4 points and 3.7 rebounds last season, while Tillman and Baker logged varsity minutes and showed proficiency from behind the 3-point line.
“It’s a big senior class — a lot of leadership,” Baker said.
Some size, too.
Lett, a transfer from Seton Catholic, is 6-foot-9. Devin Thomas is 6-8.
Shabazz and Tillman are both 6-3.
“We’re going to be really good driving and shooting the ball,” Tillman said. “Good full-court defense.
“We have a mix of experience and new players.”
Luce looks for speed to be a positive for the Red Devils.
“I think we’ll be a fast team, a strong team,” he said. “We can run.
“I think we’ll be a great rebounding team, a strong defensive team and we’ll be able to get out on the other end and play fast on offense.”
Added Shabazz: “Our shooting is going to be better during the season. Our chemistry is going to build up as the season progresses.”
Richmond finished 15-8 last season and once again contended for the top spot in the North Central Conference. The Red Devils were 5-2 and tied for second with Anderson behind NCC champion Kokomo (7-0).
It was the third straight year Richmond set up an NCC finale showdown with Kokomo with the top spot in the conference a possibility.
“We’ve had great teams, great players. We’ve won a lot of games. It’s time to get some meaningful wins,” Luce said. “It’s been frustrating to finish the way we’ve finished.
“This is another route as far as preparing to get there. We’ve changed the schedule around. The bottom line is you have to produce when you get to March.”
Richmond has advanced to the Class 4A sectional final twice in the past three postseason tournaments. Pendleton Heights has knocked the Red Devils out of the tournament three straight times, on the way to three straight sectional titles.
A new opponent has been added into the Class 4A Sectional 9 mix — Mount Vernon (Fortville), which played in the Class 3A semistate last season.
Richmond plays at Mount Vernon on Feb. 22.
The Red Devils open Nov. 30 at home against Dayton Marshall, then follow with back-to-back home games Dec. 6-7 against North Central and East Central.
RHS is at Connersville on Dec. 13, then plays Taylor County (Ky.) in Louisville on Dec. 14.
“This hopefully will be a way to challenge us throughout the entire season,” Luce said. “There are lots of great games. We’re fortunate to have an athletic director (Chad Bolser) who works very hard to get the right teams on the schedule and has an idea of what a basketball schedule is supposed to look like.
“It’ll be fun for our fans and our students, and I think for our players.”
Richmond opens NCC play Dec. 20 at Huntington North, before traveling to Upper Arlington (Ohio) the next night.
The annual Bob Wettig Tournament is Jan. 2-4 at Tiernan Center and on the campus of Earlham College, with a trip to Jay County on Jan. 11.
The Red Devils then resume NCC play with a home game against Muncie Central on Jan. 17, and a road trip to Logansport on Jan. 24.
This year’s conference slate will only include six games, as New Castle is no longer a member of the NCC.
“It’s a great conference. I think it’s the best conference in Indiana,” Luce said. “It’s unfortunate that we had some changes, but we’ll move forward.”
Luce hopes to see the Red Devils move forward in their development. He has led the program to four straight winning seasons, and has averaged 17 victories a year.
“I think they’ll show on the floor they are fantastic kids,” Luce said. “They are great students. They are great community members. They have really been school leaders. I like the overall character of our team. It’s a good mix of kids.”