The Monroe City boys basketball team enters the season with high expectations, especially once all its weapons are on the court.
With players arriving late due to the Monroe City football team making a run to the Class 1 state championship game last season, the Panthers boys basketball team still managed to win its first 10 games of the season.
Monroe City went on to an impressive 23-4 record and a district championship.
Once again the football team is up to its old tricks with another deep postseason run, but hoops coach Brock Edris knows it will be hard to achieve the same early season success for a second straight year.
“We want the football team to go as far as they can,” Edris said. “But with playing tough games like Knox County and Canton early on, it’s going to be difficult to duplicate last season’s start. This year’s team is totally different.”
The Panthers have 12 players on their varsity roster. Only four of those players are not football players.
Edris, who is also an assistant coach on the gridiron, is not too worried about it taking long for his football players to pick up on things whenever they switch from the field to the court.
“They all know the system and what we want to do so it won’t take them long,” Edris said. “The main thing will be them getting their basketball legs.”
With the football team preparing for a state semifinal game Saturday, some of the younger basketball players have received the chance to get some reps with Edris and the varsity team.
“It’s a good opportunity for those guys who practice on the JV end of the court to hear my voice a little more,” the Panthers coach said. “Hopefully they can take this experience and really excel when it comes time to play in those JV games and eventually work their way to find a spot on the varsity.”
CE Talton, Dalton McAfee, Bryce Stark and Jess Greiman are the four varsity guys in camp now for the Panthers.
Talton, a junior, will be a starter for the third straight season.
“CE has a lot of versatility at the guard spot for us,” Edris said. “He can bring it up court for us and can play the wing. He is very athletic and his game has progressed each year. He should be one of the better guards in the area and will draw a lot of attention from most teams we play.”
Talton averaged 14 points a game last season.
Blake Hays, the starting quarterback on the football team, is the only other starter back from last season's team.
“Blake as well as Zach Osborn started to find their scoring towards district time last year,” Edris said of his two starting guards. “So we are looking for them to be a lot more aggressive from the beginning of the season.”
Stark is expected to step into a bigger role for the Panthers this season.
“Bryce saw limited action on the varsity last season but we expect some big things for us this year,” the coach said.
Greiman, who came off the bench last season, is expected to round out the starting lineup.
Edris mentioned the Panthers will have a little different look this season with the graduation of post players Logan Minter (17 ppg) and Michael Speaks (15 ppg).
“We are lacking a little bit of size this year, but what we lack in size, we will make up with our athleticism,” the Panthers coach said.
Other football players who will be on the Panthers varsity squad are: Casen Chapman, Antwuan Battle, Kaelin Kendrick-O’Bryan, Brad Cheek, Michael Ryan and Jadon Underhill.
Edris said there is no certain win total he expects from his team this year. He just wants the team to hit its peak at the right time.
“Our goal is to be playing our best basketball come the end of February,” the Panthers coach said. “If that means we win 15 games, 20 games it’s whatever. We have talent and we just want to make the most of it and take it one game at a time.
“It’s a process, it’s going to be a slow one right now, but we just need to continue to improve everyday and we will try and compete and do the best we can.”
The Panthers open their season Nov. 28 against Canton.