MORRISTOWN — With a new head coach and one returning starter, the Morristown boys' basketball team will look completely different during the 2021-22 season.
Fortunately, first-year head coach Collin McCartt is no stranger to the Yellow Jackets as he was a varsity assistant at Morristown the last two seasons. McCartt took over the program in July after the departure of Scott McClelland, who is now the head coach at Noblesville.
McCartt, who graduated from New Castle in 1995, has 13 years of varsity head coaching experience. He was the head coach at North Putnam from 2014-19 and led Morgan Township for three seasons from 2007-10 prior to taking the North Putnam job (won a sectional title in 2008).
Before Morgan Township, McCartt spent four seasons with Prairie Heights from 2002-06. He won a sectional championship with the Panthers in his final year at the school. McCartt’s first head coaching job was at Morton Memorial in 2000.
Morristown was 20-5 last season under McClelland, who spent 13 seasons (two stints) with the program. The 2021 senior class included Kyle Crim, Drake Moore and Sawyer Jones, who combined to score 47.4 of the team's 58.9 points per game. Crim is playing at Hanover College while Moore is playing at York College.
"It (the program) looks a little different now," McCartt said.
The Yellow Jackets will also be without senior guard Quinton Batton, who was diagnosed with leukemia in September.
"What Q is going through is tough; I think everyone deals with it a little differently," McCartt said. "It is a hard part of life and something they (teammates) are experiencing for the first time. It gives a different perspective on things and has given them a chance to look at things through a different lens."
Senior forward Nick Stidham and junior guard Nolan Laster are back and will take on larger roles than previously expected with the loss of Batton, who averaged 6.0 points, 2.1 rebounds and 3.0 assists as a junior. Last season, Stidham (only returning starter) and Laster played in the sectional championship against Southwestern — a 68-67 double OT loss.
Stidham, who is 6-foot-3, averaged 3.7 points and 5.3 rebounds per game.
"(Nick) is adjusting to a more aggressive offensive role," McCartt said. "He is skilled and is a good shooter. I think he has a good basketball IQ. He was a great player around Kyle, Drake and Sawyer last season. He is starting to understand how much he needs to step up. I have seen some real progress with him."
Laster has an athletic family as his older brother is Logan Laster, who was the starting point guard on the Yellow Jackets' 2018 state team. His older sister, Gracie Laster, is a standout senior basketball player at Morristown.
"(Nolan's) time handling the ball went from about half the time (with Q) to most the time now," McCartt said. "He is athletic and has good quickness. He is not real big (5-10) but finishes well around the basket. His shooting is improving. He needs to be one of those scoring point guards for us. He had two concussions last year and missed a lot of time. He would have been a heavy rotation guy for us."
Junior Chase Theobald and sophomores Mathew Carlton, Carson Conrad and Cade Mahin (6-4) will also play key roles on the team this season.
"Coach McClelland and I are really close on our philosophy of the game; the one thing that is just different is our personnel," McCartt said. "I would love to play how we did the last few years. But we are going to have to adjust a little bit. We need to make sure we execute in the half court. The pace may be different but the same thoughts will be there."
Morristown opens its season Nov. 24 at home against Triton Central, which will be a boy-girl varsity doubleheader. The Yellow Jackets will play Southwestern (Nov. 27) and Waldron (Dec. 10) on the road.
"Anytime you get to open the night before Thanksgiving it is good," McCartt said. "You are always excited about that. Triton Central has some really good players back. We know we have a big challenge ahead of us. But our guys are excited."
Morristown is set to host its own tournament again this season (Dec. 29-30). The Shelby County Tournament will take place Jan. 7.