By Chris Parker
Blue Eye boys basketball is poised for a big season with five starters returning from last season’s team that finished 12-11 overall.
The senior trio of Isaiah Mitchell, Lance Clark and Ryan Cardenzana were identified by coach Kyle Turner as team leaders.
Isaiah Mitchell earned first-team all-conference honors last year on the strength of his 18 points per game average. He also pulled down six rebounds per game.
“Isaiah has earned his right to lead though years of extra hours in the gym and weight room,” Turner said. “Isaiah is a tireless worker who is very motivated to finish his career strong. Isaiah showed a huge improvement from his sophomore season 7 ppg to his junior season 18 ppg.”
Lance Clark was honorable mention all-conference and the team’s second-leading scorer with 10.8 points per game. He was also the top rebounder on last year’s team with 7.2 rebounds per game.
“Lance Clark is a hard-nosed defender who leads both vocally and through his effort on both ends of the floor,” Turner said. “Lance has really worked to improve his perimeter shooting this offseason and we’re looking forward to seeing how that helps our team.”
Cardenzana, a four-time all-state cross country runner, is the point guard for Blue Eye. He averaged 7.6 points per game while leading the team in assists with 5.6 per game.
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“What Ryan lacks in size he makes up for in heart,” Turner said. “He’s our point guard and floor general. Last season he led the team in assist with 5.5 per game. We’re excited to see his continued development this season. Ryan is as competitive as anyone on the floor.”
Luke Estes (senior), Braeden Boyd (senior) and Devon Scates (junior) round out the returning players. Estes returns to the starting lineup after he averaged 6 points per game.
“Lucas is another returning starter from last season. Lucas had great energy this summer and really shot the ball well and was much more active defensively. When he’s playing with positive energy, we are a much stronger team,” Turner said.
The seniors will be what makes this team go.
“Last season was difficult with no seniors to lead. We struggled early to understand how hard you must play every night to earn a win. By the end of the season, we started to figure it out and by the end of the summer we were playing well. I think the struggle we endured last season will be our greatest strength moving forward. The fact that we return everyone, and they have gotten to grow together should be beneficial,” Turner said.
Logan Isbell (junior), Braeden Johnson (sophomore), Colton Spinning (sophomore), Trenton Newman (junior), Jadon Weaver (junior) and Brady Isbell (freshman) are all newcomers who could make an impact this year.
Tuner will look for both his returning players and newcomers to commit to the defensive end.
“Rebounding and defense will be our focus,” Turner said. “If we are going to give ourselves a chance to make a run at the end of the season, we must have a greater focus on defense and rebounding. This was an area last season that we were not consistent. With the amount of experience we have this season, it must be consistent every night to reach our goals.”
Blue Eye opens the regular season Nov. 20-24 at the Verona Tournament.
“Our expectations are high this season, but we realize we will have to earn our recognition each night,” Turner said. “Our conference is always tough night in and night out and typically our district includes many of our conference opponents.”