By Chris Parker
Marion C. Early boys basketball finished 13-13 last year. This year, the Panthers have all the pieces in place to improve on that record.
Leading the returning players is senior Dylan Blehm. Blehm averaged 15.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.5 steals per game last year. He has more than 900 points for his career and has shot to break the school record for three-point shots made in a career. Last year he knocked down 83 3-pointers including 10 in one game.
“Dylan has started since midway through his freshman season,” MCE head coach Jonathan Winslow said. “He tied the school records last season for three-point makes in a game with 10 and for a season with 83. He really took a big step forward in other areas of his game besides shooting last year as he led us in rebounding as well. He has the ability to score in a variety of ways and continues to improve on the defensive end. I expect him to be a leader both on and off the floor for us this season.”
Garret Trantham, John Presley and Sam Maas are three more returning seniors that give the Panthers a deep group of leaders.
Trantham averaged 8.7 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2 assists per game last year.
“Garret has started for most of the past two seasons. He is our secondary ball handler and has the ability to shoot the three and to get to the basket. He is a quick defender and I look for him to be more consistent offensively and have a good senior season,” Winslow said.
Presley and Maas each averaged about 1.5 points per game as juniors.
“John (Presley) is one of a trio of posts that will see playing time this season. John has had a few injuries to deal with the last couple of years, but hoping to see a full, healthy season from him with a chance to contribute on both ends. I expect John to be a leader and be one of our hardest workers every day,” Winsolw said. “Sam is another of a trio of posts. Sam has started off and on the last two years and has played some varsity minutes since his freshman year. He is a hard worker who helps to push his teammates to improve.”
Josh McMillen leads the junior class. He averaged 12.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.8 steals per game last year.
“Josh has started almost every game since he got to high school. He is a very solid point guard who has the ability to get to the basket,” Winslow said. “His three-point shooting continues to improve, and he spends a lot of time working on his game. I expect him to have a great junior season and that his numbers will improve in every category. He has been his own worst enemy at times, but if he can keep his composure he has a chance to be one of the top juniors in southwest Missouri.”
Fellow junior Hadan Madewll also has a wealth of starting experience. He averaged 7 points, 3 rebounds and 1.8 steals and 1.7 assists per game last year.
“Hadan has started a lot of games the last two years and I expect a breakout junior year for him,” Winslow said. “He is an athletic player who can defend and rebound and score. If he can gain some consistency on the offensive side of the ball, he could help us a lot.”
Juniors Gavin Duchscherer and Chance Hampton also return after seeing limited varsity action last year.
“Gavin is a junior who I expect to have a good season. He played sparingly on varsity last year, but he has a lot of upside. He gives us versatility on defense and has the ability to score from three and in the mid-range,” Winslow said. “Chance is another junior who I expect to contribute this year after seeing a little time last year. Chance is a good shooter and has the ability to be a good defender. If Chance can learn not to be so hard on himself he could help us this year.”
Newcomers this year include: Ty Haynes (senior), Jonny Burr (senior), Markus Sence (senior), Jacob Bumgarer (sophomore), Isaac Francka (sophomore), Jacob Presley (freshman) and Landen Burrow (freshman).
“I expect us to compete and play hard every day in practice and in every game. We have juniors and seniors with a lot of varsity experience which hopefully will translate to a successful season,” Winslow said. “We want to put pressure on the other teams defensively, and think that we should be able to be efficient offensively and score in a multitude of ways.”
MCE opens the season on Nov. 24 at home against Walnut Grove.
“I expect us to have a successful season. I think we will be very competitive with everyone on our schedule and have a chance to compete for a district championship,” Winslow said. “I expect us to be more consistent then we have in the past and to play hard all the time.”