A year ago, Nai Carlisle deferred to West Lafayette’s seven seniors.
Now the sophomore point guard becomes the Red Devils’ centerpiece.
“I was a freshman last year and there were seven seniors,” Carlisle said. “You wouldn’t really revolve around a freshman. This year it is going to be leaning a little bit more toward me.”
Like with the guard position, graduation depleted the post.
Back is senior William Mbongo, who filled in for Brian Bangs and Justus Stanback a year ago and brings a long body with experience. Mbongo averaged 4.9 points and 3.2 rebounds as a reserve last year.
“My role is going to change significantly,” Mbongo said. “I am going to have to be one of the key guys on the team.”
Stanback and Bangs combined for 16 rebounds per game last season, something the team will have to make up.
“Rebounding is a concern. I think we’ve got one outstanding rebounder in William Mbongo, but we’ve got to have five guys willing go to the defensive board,” coach David Wood said. “We’re used to having some big guys in there and we were a very good rebounding team last year.
“I hope we’re going to be a good rebounding team this year, but if we are, it’s going to have to be a different scenario. We’re going to have to be really fundamentally sound rather than just big and reasonably athletic.”
When you lose seven seniors, there’s plenty of openings.
Jared Snoble and Kyle Gick each saw minimal action in 14 games last season. Trev Parker and Caleb Smith can provide scoring as well.
“People are going to find out about Jared Snoble,” Wood said. “We’re going to find out that he is an outstanding player.”
Underneath, 6-foot-3 junior Bradley Bittles adds size as does massive 6-5, 270-pound Peyton Truitt, a starting lineman for West Lafayette’s regional championship football team.
“On a team that lacks beef, he is a big old Porterhouse steak,” Wood said.
The Red Devils have had nine consecutive winning seasons, but each season is different. To continue that streak, it must be viewed as such.
“We’re not nostalgic about the past,” Mbongo said. “We’re here to just compete and using the talents we have on the team to succeed.”
— Sam Kingemail@example.com