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Thunderbirds start season with target on their backPosted Monday, November 22, 2010, at 12:45 PM
LITTLE CINCINNATI -- It is not often that a team can win 13 of 22 games, yet feel disappointed. That was the case with the Eastern Greene High School boys basketball team last year.
The bar has been placed even higher this year. The Thunderbirds, who open the season Tuesday (tonight) at home against Owen Valley, return all but two players from that squad. When you add in 6-6 senior transfer Ray Darnell, expectations are very high, needless to say.
Almost to a man, area coaches mention the T-Birds as the favorites in the Southwestern Indiana Athletic Conference and the team to beat in the Class 2A Sectional, hosted this year by Eastern Greene.
"I am sure based on what we have coming back that people have cast us as the favorite," said Eastern Greene coach Andy Igel, who needs four victories for 200 at EGHS. "I will take that role, but we have to be able to bring it every night. It is not going to happen without a lot of hard work and sacrifice. It is not going to be easy."
Igel said that you never know how a team will come together until you start playing games.
"A lot of teams have a lot of unknowns. You never know how much returning players have improved and how teams will come together," he said.
"You always have jv kids that step up. I think a lot of teams can surprise."
The Thunderbirds allowed 12 of 22 opponents to shoot at least 50 percent from the field a year ago. Igel said that has to improve.
"We are playing with more purpose on defense. We have to be able to get key stops at key points of games," he said. "We have to make it tougher on teams to score and I expect us to play with more defensive and mental toughness."
Darnell landed on the T-Bird doorstep when he decided to move to from New Jersey to Greene County to be with his father, if I have the story correct.
"He brings a really good skill set to our basketball team," said Igel.
Tyler Igel, the son of Andy, will share time at the 1 and 2 spots with leading returning scorer J.T. Yoho.
"Tyler has put in a lot of time getting stronger," said Andy. "He is physically bigger and better.
"He has grown a couple of inches as well. I look for him to do big things. He does not have to score to be successful. He has to knock down open shots and defend the other team's point guard."
Coach Igel said that Yoho, who is a 6-6 junior, had a good off season and will be their No. 1 option offensively.
"He is ready to take on that load," Igel said of Yoho, who will be in his third season as a starter.
Senior forward Zack Johnson is a slasher, who averaged over 10 points per game a year ago. But Johnson is still recovering from a football injury and is not yet 100 percent, according to Igel.
"He is an undersized 4 at 6-2, but he knows how to play," said Igel.
Davis Russell, scored just under 10 points per game on average. Igel said the senior just needs to develop more consistency.
"Davis also will guard one of our opponents best perimeter players," said Igel.
Zach Ingram, who also is still nursing a football injury, now will be contributing off the bench.
"We have 10 kids on the varsity who are going to get minutes," said Igel, who is 240-205 in 21 seasons overall and 196-150 in 15 seasons at EGHS. "This is probably going to be one of the deepest teams I've had here and they all bring something different to the table.
"Zach is a very high energy guy who will be able to play more fresh this year. He is a good rebounder and he is strong."
Senior Logan Hash can knock down the open shot and understands how to play the game, Igel said.
Juniors Nathan Cobine, who led the jv in scoring last year, Miles Hutchison and Brody Martin will be in the rotation.
"Nathan, Miles and Brody will be in our top 10," said Igel. "Nathan will face the basket more this year. We are asking him to be a more complete player.
"Miles has had a good preseason, probably our best kid in practice. He has played hard and is a good athlete who needs to develop confidence in his shot. Brody is our back up point guard. He makes things happen on the floor for other players."
Igel said they have the potential to be special, but everybody has potential.
"Our ability to meet our potential and be special will largely depend on the kids buying into the team concept and their roles," he said.
"Everybody has to buy into their role, whether it is rebounding, defending and setting screens or scoring more. If we think of we and put the Thunderbirds first, we could live up to our potential."
Igel said they will be the hunted instead of the hunter, starting Tuesday (tonight) against the Patriots.
"If we are not ready every night, we will get knocked off," he said. "It is going to be tough every night.
"We will get the best from everybody we face. We are like everybody -- we want to win every game and we want to be playing our best basketball in March, not in November. This is a marathon, not a sprint. If we can get consistency on both ends, we have a chance to be pretty good."
B.J. Hargis is the sports editor at the Greene County Daily World. He can be reached at (812) 847-4487, ext. 12 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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