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Fresh faces

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Shelbyville head coach Ryan Mack encourages his team during a game last season.
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Shelbyville forward Luke Asher shoots over a defender in a game last season.

By KRIS MILLS - kmills@shelbynews.com

In a couple years, Ryan Mack may need to call for backup.

Entering his seventh season with the Golden Bears, Mack had a new idea for team bonding this summer — an overnight camp. Fueling Shelbyville’s youth with plenty of fast food, snacks and soda for one night, Mack said it brought his program closer together.

The next day, however, was not as much fun, Mack joked. After no sleep, everyone was completely exhausted.

“We had over 50 kids there and maybe two of them slept,” Mack said. “I am sure some parents had some rough days (after). I was grumpy the next day, so I am sure the kids were grumpy. I heard some funny stories from parents. It was an experience to say the least. I will battle through it one more time. Given my old age, I might have some other people supervise later in the night after next year, because I was worthless the next day.

“I wanted to find a different way to do our summer camp. We had so many opportunities for kids to come into the gym in June and July. A three-day camp would have been the same, so I wanted to come up with a different idea. The kids got to know each other a lot better.”

With several fresh faces around the high school program and some real depth in the lower classes, Mack has caught a new wind of excitement entering another campaign. Sometimes, it is fun to get back to the drawing board.

Last season, with seniors Zach Kuhn (all-time leading scorer at SHS), Josh Williams, Garrett Davis and DJ Kramer, Mack had an idea of what to expect out of his players. Now, despite a small group of returnees, SHS has players battling for a roster spot. As Mack noted, it will be interesting to see how it all shakes out.

“This summer, losing as much as we lost, we have really tried to find what is going to make this new team successful,” Mack said. “It is guys who have not really played much varsity basketball besides maybe Luke Asher. These guys have really taken to heart wanting to continue the success of the program. These guys want to have a winning season. It will be interesting to see where the chips fall with everyone.

“It is a different team. We obviously aren’t as strong. But we shoot the ball well. In the last tournament we played in, we made 43 threes in four games. Switching defenses and switching personnel a lot will be key with this team. They will surprise people.”

As Mack noted, senior forward Luke Asher returns with the most experience and averaged 10.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per game as a junior. He also shot 55 percent from the field, which led the Hoosier Heritage Conference during the regular season.

“Asher is very impressive in terms of his ability to rebound and be explosive around the basket,” Mack said. “He can finish around the rim and is a good defensive player. I think everything will center around him getting a touch in the offensive set, which helps others get open.”

Junior point guard Mitch Yeend and junior forward Tj Sherwood were also in the varsity rotation last season and will see their roles increase significantly. Sherwood will give the team more size and length, while Yeend will continue to grow into a leadership role.

“With Mitch, he is the guy who has worked extremely hard to be the point guard, he is extremely capable of being a leader of the group,” Mack said. “He is just a winner. When he is on the court, we are a lot better.”

Mack said Jalen Pettis, Jack Baker, Brock Pitman, Layton Stieneker, Nolyn Smothers, Matthew Bunton and Hunter Hounshell have all put in nice summers and could contribute this coming season. A nice freshman class has also added depth to the program.

Losing two of the best players to ever wear a Shelbyville jersey in Williams and Kuhn will not be easy, but Mack is encouraged by the strong numbers in the lower classes at SHS.

“The freshman class is really impressive,” Mack said. “As the season comes along, we will see where they are at. There is a lot of guys down there. They have been around everyday, which is good to see."

With an athletic big and a team full of shooters, Mack said the team will play to its strengths. The Golden Bears want to get up and down the floor.

This offseason, Shelbyville hosted a league on Monday evenings and traveled to East Central, a Super Hoops Camp at Indiana Wesleyan and the Charlie Hughes Shootout. Building team chemistry and working on individual improvement has been a priority.

“It has been cool to see guys who are getting their first taste of the spotlight, they are working as hard as possible,” Mack said. “The Monday league was great competition without having to leave. We had 23 teams come through. We struggled a little bit with that, but we finished the summer 10-13. We got better throughout the summer. It was good to see, it was obvious what we were missing at first. They weren’t used to scoring. But we ended up having three or four guys averaging double figures.

In addition to a new team with new players, Shelbyville will have to adapt to playing in a different sectional. The Golden Bears are now in Sectional 13 with Center Grove, Franklin Community, Franklin Central, Greenwood and Whiteland.

Last season, SHS, which finished the year 14-11, fell to Bloomington South in the Columbus North Sectional final, 63-48. The team, after a 4-7 start, finished the year winning 10 of its last 14 games.

With a staff and program he truly enjoys being around, including guys like John Hartnett — Jr. and Sr. — John Heaton, Brady Claxton and new JV head coach James Polston, to name a few, Mack is eager for a new campaign.

“I have been very fortunate over the years, me and my coaches are really best friends,” Mack said. “That cultivates through the team. I just have a good staff, I have a lot of people to help me. They are invested in the program and that makes it easier (for me).”

Kris Mills is the Sports editor of The Shelbyville News. Follow Kris on Twitter @KrisMills37.