Wildcats to unveil up-tempo look
Cassville hoops short on size, large on speed
For the last five seasons, Cassville boys basketball Head Coach Danny Powers was spoiled with tall players to go along with his team speed.
Powers' Wildcats had the ability to post up in the paint, or devastate teams from long range.
This year, things have changed.
The Wildcats were hit hard with graduation, as they lost Ethan Lowery and Marcus Weatherman.
The bigger of the two was Lowery -- literally and figuratively. Lowery, a 6-7, three-year starter, was a first team all-conference and all-district selection and averaged 15 points and 9 rebounds a game. He is now at Ottawa University continuing his basketball career.
Weatherman was a tough, hard-nosed guard, who despite not getting much playing time as a junior, stuck around and started every game his senior year. He served as an excellent example for the Wildcat program. The Wildcats will miss
his leadership and toughness, as he is now playing baseball at Missouri Valley.
With the loss of one of the more dominant post players in the area in Lowery, this year's Wildcats will be smaller. Powers wants to see the philosophy of his team change from running a high-low motion offense to a more up tempo offense. What this year's Wildcats lack in size, they hope to make up for in quickness.
"We will look to spread the floor and attack the defense," Powers said. "Using a four- and five-out offense, our outside shooting should be much better than in years past. We want to utilize the three-point line as much as we can this season."
Last season was somewhat of a roller coaster, as his Wildcats went 10-15, with a season-ending loss to Aurora in the first round of districts.
Cassville started slow and dropped their first three games in the Strafford Tournament, including a 30-point loss to Springfield Catholic, they really hit their stride around Christmas, as they won the Southwest Holiday Tournament.
"When the season started out, we were pretty young and inexperienced," said Powers. "As the season went on, our players matured and it showed on the court, particularly when we avenged the earlier loss to Catholic in the Spokane Tournament and beat them by 18."
One thing that has Powers so excited is his deep senior class, which includes nine potential players.
Senior Riley Lekarczyk is a tough competitor who really came on around Christmas. He manages the Wildcats' offense well, and is a reliable spot-up shooter.
Senior Brandon Renfrow, was a solid role player at the guard spot. He handles the ball well and has a good perimeter game.
Josh Brown is another senior who will play guard. Powers gives Brown the nod as perhaps the team's best slasher when it comes to getting to the rim. He is also very aggressive on defense. Powers needs him to become a more consistent scorer this season.
Gabe Kirk is a senior forward who has started the last two seasons for the Wildcats. He has excellent court vision, which is reflected in his passing ability. Powers feels that Kirk has the ability to take games over, both defensively and offensively, and needs him to be a team leader this season.
Mason Loveland, another senior forward who didn't see much varsity action at the beginning of the year. However, as the season progressed he continued to pick up valuable minutes. He has a knack for being in the right place at the right time when it comes to rebounds and loose balls, according to Powers.
Junior Noah Hadlow may be the most talented offensive player on Powers' roster. He has started for the Wildcats since his sophomore year, where he was the second leading scorer behind departed big man, Lowery. Powers feels that Hadlow is primed for a breakout year.
Powers noted four seniors who he thinks can have solid years and help the Wildcats have a successful season: Kendrick Slane, Allen Lambel, Tyler Speakman and Alex Dyer. Every one of them has certain skills that Powers believes can help his Wildcats this year.
Whether it is Dyer's overall athleticism at guard, Lambel's energy and hustle, Speakman's high basketball IQ and nice touch from behind the arc, or Slane's potential physical impact on the glass, they all give the Wildcat faithful hope for a winning season.
Powers also mentioned sophomore Tyler Arndt, who picked up a few varsity minutes as a freshman. He has the ability to be an excellent outside shooter. Powers needs him to improve his ball handling skill this season, which will provide more depth in that department for the Wildcats.
"The Big 8 Conference is getting better in basketball every year," said Powers. "So, every conference game is huge for us. Monett is our biggest rival, and we have been fortunate enough to pull out victories over them the past three seasons. Each game has come down to the final seconds -- and I expect this year to be much of the same. "Ideally, I hope to have at least 10 players rotate on and off the floor to keep our legs fresh. We want to push the ball up the floor and wear out our opponents. We want to apply more defensive pressure with a more aggressive trapping defensive scheme. If we can create a lot of turnovers and convert them into easy baskets, this will be a major plus for us."
The Wildcats open their season against Fair Grove on Nov. 25. Cassville's home opener is Dec. 9 against Blue Eye.