Basketball team prepares for 2011-12 season

Justin Miller
Mitch McIntyre boxes out Blake Strebel during practice for the Illinois Valley Central basketball team.

After a season in which the team made it to the Elite Eight for the second time in school history, the Illinois Valley Central basketball team is ready to return to the court and build on last season’s success.

“They are really together, they communicate and they root for each other,” coach Jim Thornton said of this year’s squad. “There is no selfishness on the team and that is something that I’m seeing every day in practice.”

Last season the Ghosts ended with a 53-51 loss to Rockford Christian in the DeKalb Super-Sectional and was led by seniors Alex Koch, Jake Rutan and Brock Adcock.

At the helm of this year’s team are seniors Jordan Seele, Jeremy Brown, Bryce Jackson, Nolan Seiler and Sherrarr Tate.

“I’m expecting a lot and I’m getting a lot in practice from the seniors,” Thornton said. “They are doing a lot in practice and are working very hard. They have really gone out and shown the younger guys what is expected of them.”

Juniors Caleb Magee, Austin Johnson, Connor Smithson and Sam Reuter, along with sophomores Riley Owens, Mitch McIntyre and Mason Schaub will round out the 2011-12 team.

“I think they are doing really good,” Thornton said. “They have shown progress from day one and are starting to pick up things more now. It takes time, but I think that once they get a few games and some experience under their belts that they will be fine.”

This year’s team will hit the court with a varied selection of strengths and will play as a cohesive unit.

“Right now our big strength is chemistry and unselfishness,” Thornton said. “I think that we have a fairly quick team and have some good size too, so we have a good mix.”

When the Ghosts take the ball they will be able to deal with strong low-post opponents using smart offensive schemes.

“We’re going to try and get the ball inside first with Jordan and Jeremy,” Thornton said. “We are going to try to work inside out. I think teams will still try to put a zone on us to stop us from going inside so we are going to have to make our perimeter shots when we get them.”

Having a strong foundation on the defensive basics will provide the team with a good starting point on defense.

“Defensively, we have worked a lot of fundamentals in practice during the first two weeks,” Thornton said. “I’m really happy with how we have come along, and I think we’ll be a good defensive team.”

This will also mark the first season that the Ghosts play in 3A after the Illinois High School Sports Association moved the team up from 2A.

“Our schedule is a little tougher than it was a year ago, although we played a pretty tough schedule last year, which really benefited us,” Thornton said. “We know that we are going to have a tough game almost every night out and we need to just step up and battle. We are going to have to go out and play hard every night because we don’t’ have an easy game on our schedule.”

Although the Ghosts have a good mix of talent on the roster this year, they may not be at full strength to start the season.

“Right now we have some injuries,” Thornton said. “Jeremy and Austin practiced in the last five practices due to leg muscle injuries. We are thinking that we are going to get them back Wednesday but we aren’t sure.

“Jordan was hurt and missed the first week of practice so he’s trying to get himself back into shape. Hopefully we will have everybody back for the Thanksgiving tournament over the weekend. We have only had the whole team healthy once and that was our first practice.”

If the team is not completely healthy to start the season, then the younger team members will need to step up and gain much needed experience.

“I know our guys coming off our bench will not have experience yet and I think that is going to take time, but we have an experienced team from the senior standpoint,” Thornton said. “We will see how that develops but that’s just something you pick up with time.”

The team started the season at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday at Washington High School in the State Farm Tournament of Champions against Troy Buchanan.

Troy Buchanan was the second ranked team in Missouri last year in the 5A division.

The team will host the Thanksgiving Tournament this weekend.