By Amanda Perkins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Salem finished third place in the conference last season and lost to Helias in district play. The Tigers will work to improve on their 13-14 record, but will do so with an entirely new cast of players.
“This was a huge graduating class,” said head coach Conrad Prugh. “We are basically starting over with a new team. Those 8 seniors commanded much of the playing time over the last couple of years. There isn’t any part of the game that we aren’t losing when it comes to seeing these guys go. They scored, defended, rebounded, and were a really good group of students.”
Jakob Happel and Eric Wood both have moved on to play at Culver-Stockton. Logan Woolf, Dalton Cook, Eli Floyd, Marcus Jessen, Dylan Broyles, and Blake White will also be missed.
Three players will return with varsity experience. Nate Bray, 5’10” senior, is a skilled defender, rebounder, and hustle player who will now have the added expectation of scoring. Senior Cody Rictor can play in the post or as an outside guard and gives defenders fits. The six footer is dangerous from behind the arc as well. Lawson Toman, 6’, can create his own shot, has a quick release and great shot off the dribble. Toman is coming off two seasons filled with injuries, but the team’s lock-down defender is currently healthy.
While the team is full of newcomers, they aren’t lacking skills – or height. Junior Jordan Shults is a strong defensive big man, above-average rebounder, and at 6’5” can block shots well.
Carter Chilton, 6’4” sophomore, is skilled offensively and could be a real threat if he can keep up with varsity level game speed. “He can step out and shoot the three at a high percentage and is very good down on the block with his back to the basket,” said Prugh.
Carter’s cousin Logan Chilton, a 6’3” sophomore, is extremely athletic, per his coach, and can be a shut-down defender. “He is best offensively when he is attacking the rim off a drive or back door cut,” said Prugh.
Reese Dodsen, sophomore, is a good ball handler and has a high basketball IQ. “He is a pure point guard and looks to distribute more than score,” Coach Prugh said. “He’s always in a good position defensively and rebounds very well for his size.”
Hayden Wilson is a good passer and has worked on his offensive game, and the six-foot junior also motivates his teammates with his hustle.
Despite the uncertainty and lack of varsity experience, the team has found success at the JV level the past few years. “That doesn’t always translate into wins on varsity,” said Coach Prugh, “but how these guys adjust to a varsity game speed will determine our success.”
The new Tigers are hard workers and give their full effort, which will aid their defense. If Salem can also step up offensively and take care of the ball, they could have a winning season.
The Tigers open their season November 18 at Marshfield.