ARTHUR – Brad McGill enters his second season as the Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond boys' basketball coach.
McGill's Knights, who were 3-23 in his debut season, feel they're headed upward.
"I believe all of us have a better understanding of the system, the routines and, frankly, the expectations," McGill said. "We are all looking at the game from a common perspective. We spend less time explaining and more time working on our game."
The Knights started the season with a 66-55 non-conference victory over Sullivan and travel to Oakwood Friday.
A-L-A-H has four returning letter winners, including two-year starter and second team all-Little Okaw Valley Conference Northwest Division player Austin Plank. Back with him are Dominick Baker and Cody Miller, who started some of the time. Jamison Rocke is also a returning letterman.
"We have been working extremely hard to separate what was last year and this new beginning," McGill said. "The players have been single-minded in their commitment to showing who they really are."
Plank is the top returning scorer at 7.8 points per game. He also averaged 2.9 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.1 steals per game. Baker averaged five points and drew a team-high 29 charges, while Rocke averaged 2.4 and Miller 2.3.
The offense averaged 41.2 points per game and the defense allowed 58.8. The Knights' 66 points against Sullivan was four more than their game-high from last season.
"We are growing into our systems, growing as players and the addition of young, talented players from last year's junior varsity team means we will push our scoring up," McGill said.
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The Knights have some height in 6-5 junior Wyatt Romine, who had a 14-point, 12-rebound double-double against Sullivan. Freshman Kaden Feagin is 6-4.
"I was pleased with our decision making for the first game," McGill said. "We stayed in control of what we wanted to do and did not let the excitement of the first home game alter what our focus was. I was pleased with our defensive effort and pleased with playing 10 players, all with meaningful minutes."
Other seniors on the team besides Miller and Baker are Ryan Yeakley and Tucker Tabb.
"I feel confident that our roster, top to bottom is very competitive," McGill said. "We have some very competitive first team vs. second team vs. third team battled in practice."
Five players are gone from last year due to graduation, including second team all-LOVC NW Austin Romine, who led the Knights in scoring and steals at 10.0 and 1.3 respectively.
McGill, who is assisted by Mike Nall and Curtis Plank, is happy with the leadership.
"We are young, but we have leaders, those who are vocal and those who lead by example," he said. "Austin Plank is our leader on both ends of the floor. Miller has stepped into the role as a senior leader and has worked extremely hard in the off-season."
As for defense, McGill said, "We have a mix of everything and some special looks we want to give. We are rooted in man-to-man defense, but we have many differing looks which we like to run."
The Knights moved from Class 2A to 1A, where they are one of the largest schools in the classification.
"I really like our group of kids throughout the program," McGill said. "Their willingness to work hard, selfless and commitment to team success is what we look for as coaches. We expect to improve not only from last season, but from game to game. We have high expectations and that is good. This group of kids has had basketball success in the past and the football program having success (6-4 and an appearance in the Class 1A playoffs for the first time since 2014) certainly is motivation. Given the results of our summer program and commitment of our athletes to being successful. We have high expectations not only in the Lincoln Prairie Conference, but also in the postseason."
Contact Mike Monahan at (217)-238-6854. Follow him on Twitter: @monahanmikejgtc