JOLIET – The Minooka boys basketball team was missing some of its key pieces Friday at the Joliet West Shootout, including its head coach, Scott Tanaka.
Such is the nature of the summer basketball beast.
However, work still needs to get done regardless of who is available. In the case of the Indians, they are working on a re-do.
“Our summer is about giving our young kids a chance to develop,” said Tanaka’s assistant Jon Monti, a former Minooka head coach. “We lost eight great seniors who gave us a lot of leadership, and we have little varsity experience back.”
The graduation losses include familiar names such as Jake Smith, Mark Geers, Neal Tyrell, Cody Bresnahan, Adam Alexander, Mike Cappel, Shane Taylor and Lucious Armstrong.
Joe and Jonny Butler were mainstays last season despite their youth. Joe, although only a junior this fall, already is a two-year varsity starter. Jonny was the point guard last season as a freshman.
The Butlers sometimes are absent in the summer because of their baseball commitments. Regardless, the basketball team will rely on them heavily in the winter.
Kent Hudson is the senior with the most experience. He can play anywhere but probably will spend significant time in the post. At 6-2, he is one of the tallest Indians.
Others in what Monti termed “our core group” include Nick Clemens, Larry Roberts and Jon Lamas.
On the surface, it appears the Indians may be in for a struggle if they hope to come close to matching their 16-15 record of last season. But there is reason for optimism.
“We had a 23-2 sophomore team and lots of those kids will be stepping in to fill some big shoes,” Monti said.
“We’ve already seen this summer that we have some nice pieces. Teams that we have struggled the most with have tended to be a little physical.”
Whenever Minooka basketball is mentioned, defense and the Indians’ pattern offense are prime bullet points.
“We focus a lot on defense,” Hudson said. “We pride ourselves on it.”
“We’re still learning to play defense like Minooka teams have the last several years,” Monti said. “We’ll be good if we can develop that attitude. We’ll probably be undersized against most of the teams we will play, so toughness will be a huge key.”
So will scoring the ball. The Indians had times last season when they found a lid on the basket. An example was their finale, a 35-27 loss to Oak Forest in a Class 4A Eisenhower Regional game.
“With the kids we have coming up from last year’s sophomore team, our shooting should be much better,” Monti said. “Lamas, Clemens and both Butlers can shoot it.”
“I think we’re a good shooting team,” Hudson said. “Last season we did have trouble scoring at times. We’ll play more inside to outside this season and I think we will score more.”
Hudson realizes he may be stationed in the post a significant amount of time.
“We have a few guys around 6-2, 6-3, but I’ll be our big man,” he said. “I’ll be in the post a lot and lead the team in that way.”
The Indians will be different. Better? That will be determined later, when all that inexperience has had time to develop.