Boys' Basketball: Ram boys strive for a return to winning ways
By BRANDON HURLEY
Cohesion is never more necessary than on the hardwood.
Hero ball - when a single player attempts to dictate the pace of a game - rarely launches an average team to the next level. An ability to work as one unit usually prevails, allowing high school athletes to cut down on careless turnovers, simultaneously paving the way for an open bucket.
Teamwork and a collective passion is what fuels the Greene County boys’ basketball team as they embark on their latest venture. The Rams have their eyes set on returning to glory, with an overall goal of becoming one.
What separates this year’s crew from others is their passion and intelligence within the game of basketball. That’s not to say the previous two years - in which the Rams won only 12 games - those guys didn’t care, quite the contrary, they competed hard each time out, but on occasion, it felt as if Greene County was merely fielding a group of athletes instead of relying on a core of instinctive basketball players. In high school sports, that notion can be rather hard to differentiate, but in order to reach the upper tier and pile up more victories, a team must share an infatuation for the sport, especially when lacking a lights-out scorer.
The 2020-21 Greene County roster is littered with a delectable cohesiveness. Guys like Bryce Stalder, Jesse Miller, Max Riley, Zach Goff and Jackson Morton share an innate ability to work together. There’s no single player who definitively stands above the rest, which can occasionally lead to some struggles down the stretch, but also lends itself to a greater chemistry on the floor.
“It should help us early on (in the season). They pick up things well as a group,” Greene County head coach Chris Nelson said. “We don’t have to work as long on certain things. We can change and adapt quicker. They are good at picking each other up as well.”
There are a number of aspects Greene County must address this year before taking that elusive step toward success. The Rams were in the gym plenty over the offseason, hoisting shots, getting those reps under their belts. Still, there is a significant hole to fill as the season gets underway.
Replacing a 17 points per game scorer in back-to-back years is tough for anyone (2020 graduate Carter Morton and Trey Hinote in 2019, the school’s most prolific three-point shooter). Especially considering Morton led the team in rebounding (6.5 rpg), passing (3.1 apg) and defense (2.6 steals per game). Losing three starters is a challenge as well, but Nelson feels he has the right group of athletes to fill that void. All things considered, five wins isn’t the highest of bars to cross. Shooting was a tad bit of a struggle last winter. The Rams knocked down 35.5 percent of their field goal attempts, dipping down to just 28.9 percent from beyond the three-point line. The Rams must get better at putting the ball in the net from distance, they won’t have the luxury of dumping the ball down into the post like some teams do. They lack height, which means Greene County needs to let it rain from deep. There’s potential for a breakout, if all the pieces align, Nelson said, and it begins with an improved offense.
“We aren’t going to be real big, we need to knock down shots,” the coach said. “(To shoot better we need) to be patient and try to not put too much pressure on ourselves. We want to play fast but doesn’t mean we need to shoot right away. We are trying to be patient.”
Greene County averaged a respectable 52.1 points per game last winter, but turned the ball over a staggering 17.7 times per contest. Nelson believes his athletic crop of guards will provide a much-needed boost in the possession category, they should an extra layer of speed and athleticism. In turn, an aggressive Greene County defense could lend itself to easy buckets. Nelson wants his guys pressuring opposing ball-handlers.
“We are going to try and pressure the ball more. We will pick up guys at three-quarters court,” Nelson said. “We should have a little more depth and we don’t want (other teams) to see the post easily (because we lack size). We are going to keep it up tempo and go.”
Junior Bryce Stalder hopes to fill some of Morton’s void after averaging 8.2 points per game to go with 2.3 assists and 1.4 steals per game a season ago. He shot just 34.6 percent from the field, though the then sophomore did make an average of 1.3 three-pointers per game. Stalder will be flanked by sophomore Richard Daugherty, who averaged nearly six points and 1.2 made threes per game as a freshman, and a slew of other athletes.
The Rams opened the season with a pair of losses to Ogden and South Hamilton. A choppy start may be in store, as the Rams will have only practiced for a single week prior to tip-off. Practice time was non-existent until Thanksgiving, a full week and a half later than most due to Greene County’s temporary move to online learning. Nelson tried to curtail that lack of court time by pushing his guys harder in practice, hoping to get them into game shape. He enlisted a few two-a-day sessions and ratcheted up the scrimmages. Basketball isn’t a sport for the lazy, and when a team loses time, it’s even more important to speed things up. The Rams hope to crank the heat, and set the winter season on fire with a combination of pressure, speed and efficiency.