By Justin Sampson (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Mitch McHenry is happy to finally be in the same place he was at this point last year. Since 2015, he has gone from Evangel assistant, Kickapoo assistant, Logan-Rogersville head coach, and back to Kickapoo.
His return to the Chiefs came with a daunting task: replace nearly 98 percent of the scoring following one of the most successful runs in program history. After a 14-13 performance in his first year as head coach, he is ready to see what his players can do with varsity time under their belts.
“Last year, we had nobody in our group with really any varsity experience at all,” McHenry said. “Our main players are coming back this year, so that dynamic of it is something we’re really looking forward to.”
Kickapoo looked to be on an upward trajectory with a 14-6 start last winter but lost its last seven games in the Ozark Conference, McHenry attributes a lot of that to an injury to point guard Anton Brookshire, which kept him out of each of those contests. At the time, he was second on the team with a 13.7 points per game and 3.7 rebounds per game average.
Now, the All-Ozark Conference Defensive Team selection is back for his sophomore campaign and could soon bloom into one of the league’s top talents.
“I don’t think we finish like that if we had (Brookshire). You can’t control injuries, but now we expect to have a chance to win every game we play.”
All-Ozark Conference First Team honoree Tanner Oetting also returns for his senior season. As the reigning team leader with 14.4 points per night, he has proven to have a high motor and will be a big factor on both ends.
David Senn also returns to the starting lineup with one of the biggest bodies in the area at 6’8” and 230 pounds. He notched 4.5 rebounds per night as a junior and McHenry expects him to be a dominating force in the paint once again.
Luke Rebmann and Jalen McGarrah will wrap up their Kickapoo careers this year as seniors as well. Rebmann will add to the post presence at 6’4”.
“We’re still young. This year, we’ll play some sophomores or juniors with one year of varsity experience,” said McHenry. “We have better talent than last year, but you still have to play tough and disciplined.”
The Chiefs certainly do not lack the talent to poke their noses back into the top tier of the Ozark Conference. Consistent play is the key and that is a tough ask of any group with so many first-timers in the varsity game.
Even with youth, Kickapoo does not fit that billing this winter and McHenry expects the play to reflect that.
“If we don’t have success, it won’t be from a talent standpoint. It’s just being disciplined and working together. When we play the right way, we have a chance to be really good.”
“The kids know the expectations that I have. I’m excited about the growth and being able to cultivate the relationships within our program.”