The Harrison boys basketball team turned a corner last year, registering its first winning season (14-10) under Mark Rinehart.
Rinehart begins his fifth season feeling pretty good about his program and team.
“Last year, we started to see some results,” Rinehart said. “We won more than we lost for the first time. We have a lot of kids who have a lot of experience in our program. That matters. We have guys that understand what our expectations are.
“We have more skill level than we ever had. I like the aspect that we have a lot of kids that understand what we want. It will come down to our ability to execute, to make decisions that will give us a chance to win games.”
All of that is good, but Rinehart believes the Raiders will face their toughest schedule since he arrived. Harrison made the move to the North Central Conference last year after playing in the tough Hoosier Crossroads Conference in Rinehart’s first three years.
“I think by far this is the most difficult schedule we have ever played in terms of the talent level,” he said. “Our league stacks up extremely well to the HCC this year. It may not be better every year but this year for sure it is.”
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Harrison will face the tough schedule with some unknowns despite having seven seniors on its roster.
“We lost 44 points a game in scoring to graduation,” Rinehart said. “But, I don’t think scoring will be an issue for us. If we can defend at a high level, I think we can score enough to be competitive. Any coach in November worries if we can stop anybody and certainly that is our concern. I think we have some guys that can go get 20 points in a game, but I think balance will be the way for us to go.”
Aidan Hannon, a three-year letterwinner, leads the list of returning Raiders. The 6-foot-3 senior averaged 3.3 points and four rebounds a game. The other returning players include 6-4 senior Mackie Evans, 6-1 senior Dom Trapp, 5-11 sophomore Benito Munoz, 6-4 senior Derek Ginn, 5-10 senior Matthew Roop and 5-11 junior Jack Mathew. Hannon, Trapp and Mathew all started last year.
“We are not very big so we are going to have to find ways to attack the paint,” Rinehart said. “It is not just going to be jamming it down people’s throats. We could be pretty good defensively on the first shot. If we can’t stop them there, it will be a problem.
“We pride ourselves on playing hard and a lot of that comes from playing our base man-to-man defense. We will certainly change things up based on what we think our best option is based on the opponent’s personnel.”
Rinehart expects 6-0 senior Tyler Howat, 6-4 senior Andre Boyles, 6-1 sophomore Jakub Hall and 6-0 sophomore Alex Bauer to work into the mix this season.
“All four bring qualities that we are excited about and they fit in very well with our older kids because they are smart kids,” he said. “But, they will have to deal with the shock of playing varsity basketball and earn trust in their decision making.”
Harrison will face West Lafayette at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the opening round of the J&C Hoops Classic at Lafayette Jeff. The Raiders will see a Red Devil team that could be depleted because its football team played for the Class 3A championship Friday.
“It doesn’t matter who they put on the floor, the game will be very tight,” Rinehart said. “That has been proven over time. If they have all their guys, they have a lot of kids that can shoot the ball. Nai (Carlisle) is one of the elite players in the area and he controls the game with the ball in his hands. You can’t make mistakes or he will make you pay for it. It will be a challenge for us early in the year.”
Coach: Mark Rinehart (36-55 in fifth year)
2014-15 results: 14-10 (3-6 North Central Conference), lost to Logansport 84-70 in sectional opener.
Best J&C Hoops Classic finish: Second (2009-2010)
Key returnees: Aidan Hannon, sr.; Dom Trapp, sr.; Jack Mathew, jr.; Matthew Roop, sr.; Mackie Evans, sr.; Derek Ginn, sr.; Benito Munoz, soph.
Others to watch: Tyler Howat, sr.; Andre Boyles, sr.; Jakub Hall, soph; Alex Bauer, soph.