ARCOLA -- It is an entirely new team from last year as the Purple Riders lost seven players from a 24-4 Class 1A regional championship season.
The top returning scorer for the boys' team is Blake Lindenmeyer, who averaged 2.3 points per game. He is one of four players that are returning lettermen. Two of the others are Lindenmeyer's classmates, seniors Dylan Shields and Javi Alanis, while junior Conner Strader (1.1 points per game) is back as well.
"We have some kids that can shoot," said Shaffer of what he hopes to be the strength. "All of the kids are bascially getting their first varsity experience ever. Experience means a lot in anything, including shooting. You get in a game and it is a little different feeling and you have to adjust mentally and defelop confidence. Experience develops confidence in just about anything. We will get better as the years goes on."
Arcola lost is opener in overtime to Urbana Uni High 64-63 and are to travel to Kansas to play Tri-County Friday.
"Practices have been pretty good," said Shaffer. "Of course it is different than last year because we had a full allotment of practices which makes a difference (last year's practice started after Arcola won the Class 1A state championship). The kids have been great and I think we are progressing. As we get to play more games we will learn more about the personnel and who we want to use at what times."
Clayton Miller, a 6-1 senior guard is out this year and Shaffer said that is really going to help the team.
"He is an athletic kid and he is a very willing defender which is going to get him a lot of playing time."
Shaffer said Byard and his classmate Myles Roberts have improved a lot since last season.
"It was obvious that Kaleb Byard was ready to play varsity basketball," said Shaffer. "He is already responded (13 points against Uni High). He didn't have any varsity experience before, but he is ready physically and mentally. He is gonig to be a really good ball player the next three years along with Myles Roberts, who has come a long way and will be our main post players (6-1)."
Last year's team averaged 64.8 points per game and allowed 49.1. Gone from that team is Arcola's all-time leading scorer and third team Illinois Basketball Coaches Association All-State player, Kollin Seaman who averaged 17.8 points per game. Also gone from the team that won the Little Okaw Valley Confernce Northwest Division tournament, overall LOVC tournament and LOVC NW divsion regular season champions, are first team unanimous all-division player Wyatt Fishel (10 points per game average) and second team plaeyr Austin Shafer (9.2 points per game).
"It looks like there will be a lot of times that we will have four guards on the floor," said Shaffer. "We will try and pressure the ball a litle bit and we will do some different things defensively because we are not very big (Hugo Garza, a 6-2 freshman is the tallest player). Rebounding is a premium and it will be a challenge every game. We are not very big, but we have some good athletes."
Lindenmeyer and Alanis are the co-captains.
"Lindemeyer will be one our leaders if not our leader in scoring most of the year," said Shaffer. "He has gotten a lot stronger and he grew a little bit. He is very aggressive and very strong and knows how to play basketball and that is a big plus. Javi Alanis is the other captain and they are both good chocies. They are two good people."
Strader is the point guard.
"We were looking for a point guard and it looks like so far he has taken over the role," said Shaffer. "He had nine assists and six steals against Uni. He didn't score a lot, but that is what we need; somebody to get us in our offense and do the right thing. Make the simple play first. He is also probably our best defender."
Arcola plans on playing man-to-man defense.
"We have been focusing on what defense we can be comfortable with," said Shaffer. "We have already learned that we can pressure the ball a little bit against certain teams and have some success. That got us back in the game Monday when were down 10 and went to a half-court press at first and then a full-court pres and got right back in the game. We are trying to get the kids to understand being a smaller team we need to pressure the ball a little better and make it more difficult for other teams."
2016-17 ARCOLA PURPLE RIDERS
Coach: Mike Shaffer 2nd year 24-4 (.857)
Assistant coach: Randy Swartz
(Name, height, position)
Javi Alanis 6-0 F*
Angel De La Garz 6-0 F
Blake Lindenmeyer 5-11 G*
Dylan Shields 6-1 F*
Conner Strader 5-11 G*
Nick Vaughn 6-0 G
Kaleb Byard 5-11 G
Alec Downs 5-11 F
Myles Roberts 6-1 F
Jacob Butler 6-0 F
Hugo Garza 6-2 F
2016-17 ARCOLA BOYS’ BASKETBALL SCHEDULE
(All games start at 6 p.m. with junior varsity followed by varsity unless otherwise noted)
Friday at Tri-County (Kansas); Dec. 6 – WSS at Windsor; Dec. 9 – at Tolono Unity; Dec. 13 – SULLIVAN; Dec. 16 NEOGA; Dec. 20 – at Tuscola; Dec. 26-28 – at Dieterich Tournament (TBA)
Jan. 3 – ARTHUR OKAW CHRISTIAN; Jan. 10 – at Casey-Westfield; Jan. 13 – at Georgetown Notre Dame de la Salette; Jan. 17 – CUMBERLAND; Jan. 20 – CERRO GORDO/BEMENT*; Jan. 21-27 – LOVC Tournament at Bethany (TBA); Jan. 28 – LOVC TOURNAMENT CHAMPIONSHIP (TBA); Jan. 31 – SANGAMON VALLEY*
Feb. 3 – at Decatur Lutheran*; Feb. 10 – A-L-A-H at Arthur; Feb. 11- LOVC/NTC Shootout at Cumberland (TBA); Feb. 14 – ARGENTA-OREANA*; Feb. 17 – at Okaw Valley*; Feb. 20-24 – Class 1A Regional (TBA)
*-Little Okaw Valley Conference Northwest Division