By Jordan Burton (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Clever basketball will feature a new look this year.
Gone is Jakob Partee and the Class of 2017, which spearheaded back-to-back 20-win seasons for the Blue Jays.
Luke Brosius returns just one starter, but he’s optimistically excited about what his sixth year at the program could hold.
“There weren’t many teams in the area that collectively had a better senior class than what we had last year,” said Brosius. “I think these guys get how important our chemistry will be and everyone just doing their job. They are coachable and want to continue to learn and develop.
“I love that about this group. I know that people may be overlooking us due to what we lost, but this group has the capability of having a great year and being right there come district time and beyond.”
The key to Clever’s season will be the play of senior point guard Devan Hampton and his ability to make everyone around him better.
The 5-foot-10 senior was an All-SWCL pick last year after averaging 9.3 points and 4.6 assists.
Brosius believes that Hampton took major strides in becoming a better combo guard during the offseason.
“Dev knows that this is his team and I think you are going to see a kid that has an unbelievable year,” said Brosius. “At times this summer, he just absolutely dominated and showed all facets of his offensive game.
“He has always been so unselfish and I think he is finally learning that for us to have a chance to be great, if he is not attacking and looking to score or create, he is inherently being selfish because he is not helping our team get to where we need to be.”
The person that may benefit the most from Hampton’s unselfishness is fellow senior Caleb Peck.
The 6-foot wing averaged 6.6 points despite playing limited minutes, finishing third on the team in 3-point FG.
“Caleb Peck has a chance to be a special shooter,” said Brosius. “He averaged close to five made threes a game this summer and had some games where he made 8-9 threes. He has such a quick release. He conceded to the seniors last year a lot, especially coming in as a newcomer from Glendale.”
Senior Mason Wilson will log minutes in the backcourt, giving Brosius the option of moving Hampton off the ball.
Wilson is a great defender and willing passer with a high basketball IQ, as explained by Brosius.
Juniors Jace Griswold and Nathan King will also provide backcourt depth. Griswold’s athleticism allows him to excel as a defender and in transition, while King is more of a catch-and-shoot guy.
Brosius is extremely excited about the frontcourt depth and versatility he has.
Senior Tyler Deepe is a 6-foot-4 rebounder and rim protector. Juniors Korby Fenske and Kobe Dye are active rebounders and defenders.
Junior Kody Whiles will take on a much bigger role this year after playing sparingly as a sophomore.
Brosius believes he can provide an inside-out scoring threat because of his size and athleticism.
Junior Britton Dover and sophomore Taylor Gentzler could both find minutes as stretch bigs.
Clever loves spacing and the transfer bigs both have the ability to post, but also can knock down perimeter jumpers in addition to rebounding and defending.
The inexperienced Jays will have little time to learn on the job with the toughness of the early portion of the schedule.
Clever opens the season by hosting East Newton and the 84th Clever Tournament. This year’s field may be the best in the history of the event with a who’s who of small-school powers.
Walnut Grove is the defending Class 1 state champ, Crane is the Class 2 runner-up, while both Hartville and Fair Grove were Elite Eight teams. The remaining three teams, Catholic, Mount Vernon and Class 4 Aurora, all played for district championships.
Class 5 COC programs Carthage and Willard are both on the schedule, as well as the Mountain Grove Tournament.
Brosius is unapologetic about the schedule, he believes this team has the chops to grow and learn together, potentially putting them in a position to accomplish something more come March.
“To me the talent is still here and having guys that accept their roles, buy-in to what we are trying to accomplish, do not get jealous of each other, are all about the TEAM is what could separate us from a lot of other very good teams,” said Brosius. “Everyone likes to say that they are all about the team, but rarely do you see a team full of guys that truly are. I believe we could have that group with this team.”