By Jeff Kessinger (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Graduation has not been kind to the Clever boys the past few years. But a strong returning nucleus is giving Blue Jays coach Luke Brosius reason to be optimistic
“Last season was a tough one for us as we tried to reload from a couple of previous senior classes that were very talented,” Brosius said. “Our schedule was extremely challenging for us as well and allowed little room for error and growth with an inexperienced varsity group. This season we hope to rebuild with a talented group that I believe will always work hard and play together.”
Clever will be without four seniors, three of them starters, from last year’s squad, including Daylon Loonsfoot, who is playing for Southwest Baptist. Felow guards Jordan Adams and Nathan King, and forward Kody Whiles have also graduated from a squad that went 9-17.
Taylor Genzler is back for his senior season after averaging nearly 9 points and 6 rebounds a year ago. He gives the Blue Jays a presence in the paint.
“(Genzler) played with much more consistency this past summer,” Brosius said. “He has the potential to be a very good post player for us and a difference maker out there on the court. Taylor will have an opportunity to have a great senior year and really lead us vocally as well.”
Fellow senior Blaze Akins is also expected to contribute. He is capable of knocking down jumpers, but his biggest contribution might come on the other side of the court.
“(Blaze) is one of our best defenders. Because of his quickness and athletic ability, he is capable of guarding a variety of players with different skill sets and size,” Brosius said. “We look for him to be our defensive stopper and know that this will be a pivotal role for our team’s success.”
A versatile junior class will also contribute. Bryce Gelle started most of last season as a sophomore, while Jake Twigg moves up after running the point for the JV squad last season. Jake Tennis, at 6-foot-4, adds height and athleticism in the front court, while Grant Pellham is a high-motor player in the back court.
Varsity newcomers Justin Allman, Kadeon Broome, Logan Gillmore and David Maddox are ready to contribute nightly at the varsity level. Brosius uses words like hard-nosed, physical and tough to describe that quartet.
Freshman Josh Reeves could also earn some varsity minutes. He’s already 6-foot-1 and brings a solid offensive skill set to the court.
“He can shoot the 3, create his shot and handles the ball well,” Brosius said. “As he gains confidence, I believe he has to potential to bring another scorer and ball handler to our team.”
One thing that has not changed for Clever is a schedule with a high degree of difficulty. Brosius, in his eighth year leading the Blue Jays, has never shied away from those challenges. The Jays have non-league games with the likes of Republic, Mount Vernon and Greenwood and their Clever tournament features Fair Grove, Hartville, Catholic, Hillcrest, Marshfield, Seneca and Central.
That slate will challenge the Blue Jays for sure, but this group could be up to the task.
“We will try to take advantage of our speed and athleticism by getting out and running and capitalizing on easy scoring opportunities,” Brosius said. “We believe that we will be extremely successful if we can take care of the ball and rebound well. Our team chemistry will be critical to the kind of season that we have and we feel like we have a group that is very close and understands their roles. We believe our unselfish play and family type of atmosphere that we embrace will bring us closer together and help us through the challenges we will face this season.”