Chris Sullens is continuing to construct a solid boys basketball program at Warren County High School. As with any other building project, it starts with a sturdy ground floor.
Sullens and his staff solidified their base last week when they announced the 15 members of next season’s freshman team. With a variety of players from the many county elementary schools, the first goal for Sullens will be to get all the players comfortable under one roof.
“Roles change for players when we bring in groups from several different schools,” said Sullens. “We want our players to understand how roles change for the better of the team. We’re all a team now and not against each other.”
The freshman team will have championship experience on its roster as Ethan Smith, Joel Garcia and Raven Lewandowski move up after leading the Morrison Eagles to back-to-back undefeated seasons, both ending with championships. They'll find some familiar foes on their side of the bench this season, starting with four Eastside Bulldogs - the team Morrison defeated for the county title in February.
Andrew Fults, Axel Rodriguez, Dillon Young and Logan Young helped take Eastside to the championship game this season.
Other county school talents includes Damien Thomas and Brant Young from Centertown and former Dibrell Wildcat Austin Newby.
The rest of the roster is rounded out by Ben Clark, Jamison Holt, Gavin Myers, Isaiah Rutledge and Sloan Seymour - all members of last year's WCMS Pioneer team coached by Isaiah Phillips.
Guard play could be pivotal if the freshman team wants to extend its streak to three straight finals appearances in the District 6-AAA freshman tournament. Only Clark, Newby, Myers and Rutledge spend most of their time in the paint.
Seymour, Holt and many of the county school players are adept at playing a run-and-gun style featuring lots of full-court pressing.
Finding the right balance of players and injecting some new skills will be a focal point when the team gets rolling this week.
“We have a diverse group that is guard heavy,” said Sullens. “We must develop their skill set to the high-school level, with speed and physical play being at the top of our list.
“We’ll get them on the floor this week and put them in the fire at team camp. We expect them to compete and work hard from day one.”
The Pioneers began practice Monday and will continue hitting the hardwood this week. Warren County will travel Friday to take part in the Van Buren County summer camp, which is scheduled to run through Saturday.