Gastineau will be the focal point for the Bears this season after losing potent players from last season’s team.
“We lost three starters and our sixth man from last year’s team. This provided 60% of our offense,” Ava head coach Nathan Houk said. “Zach Leonard and Kevin Philpott gave us a lot of size in the post, and they were also our leading rebounders. Chase Dixon gave us great perimeter defense. Kody Kutz gave us depth, and he was a good outside shooter, leading the team in 3-point field goal percentage.”
Houk is confident his senior guard is up to the task of leading this season.
“He (Gastineau) has great instincts on the floor, knows how to get to the hole and he has continued to improve his offensive skills with lots of hard work this past off-season,” Ava head coach Nathan Houk said.
The senior guard averaged 13.1 points, 3.1 assists, 3 rebounds and 2.2 steals per game last season on his way to a First-Team All-Conference and First-Team All-District selection.
Ben Loge, a six-foot-two forward, is back after being the team’s third-leading scorer last season as a sophomore with an average of eight points per game. Loge was honorable mention All-SCA last season.
“He gives our team a lot of athleticism,” Houk said. “He does a great job of getting to the basket and free throw line.”
Seniors Dexter Fish and Phillip Eubanks along with juniors Cooper Emerich and Brandon Guengerich will return after seeing some time on varsity last season.
One of the new faces that will be asked to provide quality minutes is sophomore big man Tristan Haltom. The six-foot-three Haltom worked this summer to get ready to play the varsity game after playing for the freshman and junior varsity teams last season.
“(He) showed lots of improvement through the summer,” Houk said. “I think with some hard work Tristan can help replace some of the size we lost to graduation. He has good touch around the basket and defends the post well.”
With only two players that are expected to contribute taller than six-feet, the Bears will have to play up-tempo this season.
“Last year’s team was a big, strong (and) physical team. This year we will have less size, but will be a quicker, more athletic team,” Houk said. “We need to use that to our advantage. Limiting our opponents’ possessions, executing in the half court, scoring in transition and using our defense to create our offense are all key factors in our team’s success.”
Other players to watch for Ava include the junior trio of Jesse Dean, Jordan Dimirski and Seth Dobbs along with sophomores Cody Huff, Chase Gastineau, John Luebbring and Coltan Ackers.
The Bears will be young, but Houk hopes to have a seasoned team come championship time.
“We will be relying on several players that saw little or no time on the Varsity floor. However, I think we can be a team that shows much improvement as the year progresses,” Houk said.