BETHEL – He’s a tall man with a tall order.
Veteran coach Tom Jutze took over the Bethel-Tate High School boys basketball program last summer and is trying to send seniors like Adam Shinkle off with a winning record.
It won’t be easy as the Tigers haven’t finished above .500 since the 2010-11 season. The past three seasons for this year’s seniors featured seven wins, three wins and last year, just one.
Last season, the Tigers didn’t win until mid-February in the Southern Buckeye Conference tournament. This season, the wait wasn’t nearly as long as Bethel-Tate tasted victory in early December against Felicity-Franklin.
They actually finished the month 4-2 by also defeating Blanchester, Williamsburg and Edgewood. In addition, a loss to Clermont Northeastern was by just five points and a defeat against Cincinnati Country Day was only by a couple of baskets.
“The kids are playing hard,” Jutze said. “It’s a process. It’s just a matter of executing at the right time and finishing shots.”
Jutze employs four seniors, three juniors and five sophomores. They also have a fully stocked junior varsity and freshman team.
“They’re a real good group to work with and they’re trying to learn the game,” Jutze said. “They’re really responsive and really coachable.”
Senior Jake Robinson is the tallest at 6-foot-6 and sophomore Jake Stolz brings the bulk at 240 on his 6-2 frame. Most of the Tigers range from 5-10 to 6-2 and have the thin athletic builds that comes with youthful metabolism.
Based on the opposition, Jutze would like to pump up his pivots, points and power forwards.
“If you look at Amelia and us, you can tell those guys have been in the weight room,” Jutze said. “Our program needs to be in the weight room. High school sports nowadays, every sport is bigger, stronger, faster.”
At press time, Shinkle was leading the team in points, rebounds, steals and shooting percentage. Like junior Evan Iding, he’s on the soccer field in the fall and the running track in the spring.
“He’s tough mentally, tough physically and he brings it to practice every day,” Jutze said. “He doesn’t take a break for one second on that court.”
Iding joins Shinkle in double figures and is the team’s best free throw shooter. He’s a prime example of a player Jutze would like to see in the weight room as he tilts the scales at just 140 pounds.
“He had scored well for us,” Jutze said. “He creates his shots and gets to the line for us. He’s more of an offensive player than a defensive player, so we working on the other end of the floor with him.”
Among the youthful Tigers, Tommy Bingamon and Trenton Weeks have shown some promise. The 6-2 Bingamon has helped in the post and is just behind Shinkle and Iding in scoring. Weeks has helped out in the backcourt with junior Kody Curless.
“Our sophomore group has some good players in there,” Jutze said. “We’re counting on them for the future and we’re counting on a couple of them right now.”
Just like some of the other programs, Jutze would like to see more kids come out. Participation is on the rise, but when you haven’t won in a few years, it’s “all hands on deck”.
“If they don’t come out, it’s a loss on that kid,” Jutze said. “We can only ask them to come out, we can’t make them. The kids that come out are giving us all they have.”
With a few good bounces and continued determination, Bethel-Tate could have the best season seniors Shinkle, Robinson, Jason Altmayer and Cody Poff have seen.
Up ahead is a road contest at Western Brown Jan. 23, followed by a home game with Norwood on Jan. 24. Their next cross-county duel with Felicity-Franklin is Feb. 3.
“Our goals are to win the conference and have a winning season,” Jutze said. “I think those are realistic goals for our program.”