By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Plagued with roster issues last season, Clever basketball managed to find its stride late.
The 10-15 Blue Jays reached the district title game before falling to top-seeded Greenwood.
For head coach Luke Brosius, the season result was much more than a record might indicate.
“We had a really good senior group that bought into their roles and played them really well,” Brosius said. “While our record is not indicative of a successful season at 10-15, our schedule was extremely tough, and we lost several games by single digits to quality teams. We were definitely playing our best basketball at the end of the year.”
Graduates Bryce Gelle, Jake Twigg, Kadeon Broome and Cole Langley — all starters — move on from the program.
Gelle will continue his basketball career at Avila University, while Twigg and Langley will play baseball for Mineral Area Junior College.
“We lost four senior starters but the biggest thing that happened along the way was that our seniors paved the way for what buying into your role and being all about the team can do for a team’s success and chemistry,” Brosius said. “They set the groundwork for what I hope is years of guys buying into the same idea.”
DOWNLOAD THE O-ZONE APP NOW!
CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD FOR APPLE
CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD FOR ANDROID
The Blue Jays will be led by returning starter Grant Pellham.
A 5-foot-11 senior, Pelham averaged 10 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 2.2 steals last season and received all-conference honors.
“Grant is a very good athlete with great speed and a high motor,” Brosius said. “He finishes well around the basket in spite of the fact that he is not one of the tallest guys out there. He became one of our best defenders and a guy that did a lot of the little things for us that are necessary for us to win.”
Also returning to the lineup is Kendon Pate, a 6-foot-2 senior who will be stepping into an expanded role in the offense this season.
“Kendon is one of our best pure scorers and has the potential to score at a high level for us this year,” Brosius said. “He does a really good job creating his shot, has become much stronger and has good athleticism.”
With open opportunities, Clever will also look to a host of varsity newcomers for production.
Kolton Adkins (JR), Jacob Brown (JR), Brayden Verch (SO), Lane Mendenhall (SO), KJ Bozier (JR), Aaron Rice (JR), Jase Whiles (JR) and Hayden Camp (JR) will all compete for varsity minutes.
“We do not have a lot of varsity experience returning or a lot of size, which will present its challenges, but I’m excited about what we have and the work-ethic of this group,” Brosius said.
While Clever’s roster is laden with new faces and relative inexperience, Brosius believes his team’s overall chemistry will help it develop quickly and overcome typical early-season struggles.
“I think our kids really get along well,” Brosius said. “I’m hoping that they will take that and do a better job of holding each other accountable and leaders will emerge that kids will want to follow. That is one of the biggest challenges that kids face, holding others accountable, but it’s one that could take our kids to the next level.”
“We want to get out and run and take advantage of easy scoring opportunities in transition,” Brosius said. “Having said that, we hope that our kids will be disciplined enough to truly value every possession and take care of the ball on the offensive end and make everything a challenge on the defensive end and limit our opponents to one shot. I do believe our kids this year have the kind of blue-collar work ethic that is necessary to give us the opportunity for success.”
Following a Nov. 18 jamboree at Willard with Glendal, Ava and the host team, Clever will tip off its season Nov. 23 at home against East Newton.