MATTOON — The Mattoon High School boys' basketball team has a new coach this season, but he's not expecting to make many changes as the season starts on Tuesday at the St. Anthony Thanksgiving Tournament.
Ryan Ghere, who was an assistant on last year's team and in past seasons and is the longtime MHS boys' and girls' soccer coach, took over the reins of the program last week on an interim basis after Josh Forsythe was relieved of coaching duties. The full details of why are unknown, but Ghere will be the head coach and Jordan Coleman is the assistant coach.
The Green Wave are coming off an 8-21 season, it's worst season since 2011-12 when Mattoon went 6-23, and returns plenty of players from last season's team. Even though the program graduated Davis Johnson, who is playing for Lake Land College, Nick Owens, Dalton Stephens and Drake Jeffries, who is a member of Minot State's men's basketball team, the Green Wave have Jadyn Princko, Jaydon Noe, Jake Ghere, Jacob Spitz, Justus Donaldson and DeAndre Thomas all back this season.
Ghere said the expectations simple this season, to basically improve every game.
"We aren't going to talk about wins and losses. If we play well and improve, that will take care of itself," Ghere said. "We want to be competitive with everyone on our schedule. The conference became much more challenging with the addition of Lincoln and Mahomet-Seymour. We lost most of our scoring from last year, but we have a good core coming back. We are going to have to shoot the ball well and improve defensively.
"We have three seniors with Camdyn Considine, DeAndre and Justus. They are going to have to be our leaders for us."
Ghere doesn't plan to change the system the Green Wave ran last season much. There will be a tweak here and there, though.
"We will continue to do some of the things that we have done in the past," Ghere said. "We will change a few things as well. This staff got off to a late start, so we will continue to add different pieces as the season progresses."
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Jeffries missed nine games last season with a knee injury, but was still Mattoon's leading scorer with 17.7 points per game and 318 points scored. Stephens was next with 11.7 points a game. Donaldson is Mattoon's top scorer back with 5.0 points per game. Princko was right behind him with 4.9 points a game.
Ghere said the team will lean on its young guards, who saw time as sophomores, this season.
"Jaydon, Jadyn and Jacob all saw varsity action last year and need to handle the ball and shoot with consistency. They have spent a lot of time shooting and playing in the offseason," Ghere said. "Jake and Brock Smith can play both inside and out. Connor Barnes has put in a lot of time in the offseason. He can be a presence inside for us. These juniors need to learn quick for us to be successful. Sophomore guard Chandler Rhine and forward Lane Roley round out the varsity roster right now."
Down low, Ghere needs his three main forwards - Thomas, Donaldson and Jake Ghere, to put in quality minutes.
"We are not very big, so we are going to need major minutes from them inside," Ghere said. "They all played extended minutes for us last year. They are going to have to score inside to open up our shooters. All five players on the floor are going to need to rebound for us."
Mattoon opens the season at 8 a.m. on Tuesday at St. Anthony High School against Robinson. Mattoon is in Pool B of the St. Anthony Thanksgiving Tournament.
"The kids have worked really hard the last two weeks," Ghere said. "We need to play someone to see where we really are right now."