Center Grove Boys Basketball Preview
Writer & Photographer / Matt Roberts
After struggling to a 9-16 record last year with a very young, inexperienced team, the Center Grove High School boys’ basketball team will open its 2016-2017 campaign December 2 under third-year Coach Zach Hahn. Hann said he believes the pieces are in place for the Trojans to take a step forward in 2016.
But are the Trojans athletic enough to compete in the rugged Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference with perennial powers like North Central, Pike and Carmel?
“I’d definitely say so,” Hahn said while watching a pre-season practice. “Our guards are much more athletic than last year. And this is the third year I’ve had some of these guys. They understand things better than they have in the past, like how to get open against a quicker guy, how to get by somebody and not turn the ball over.
“Our point guard (Spencer Piercefield) is such a solid player. He doesn’t make too many mistakes, and that’s what we need out there in a floor general.”
Hahn believes most of the scoring load will fall to Piercefield, sophomore Trayce Jackson-Davis, junior Nate McClain, and senior Travis Roehling.
“We’ll probably get most of our scoring from sophomores, which is good and bad,” he said. “I worry about inconsistency with this team. There are going to be a lot of highs, but a lot of lows as well. It’s not a lack of effort, but lack of execution from young legs and young minds.”
Hahn started pre-season practices shorthanded due to Center Grove’s success in the football playoffs, as a number of those football players play basketball, as well. He eagerly anticipated the strength and toughness those players would bring when they were finally available.
Hahn hasn’t always had this problem as previous teams rostered few multi-sport athletes. Though he was anxious to get his full team on the court, he did see an upside to the delay.
“I think it’s good, because when they get done with football they’re ready for something else. They’ve been in football since July, so even though their bodies are tired, their minds are fresh and they’re excited to start a new season. It brings some excitement back into the program.
“And you’re getting guys who are 6’3”, 6’4”, who can bench press 325 pounds.”
In Hahn’s first year at Center Grove, the senior-laden team went 13-10, but fell to New Palestine in the first round of sectionals. Last year’s 9-16 Trojans played three freshmen in the starting rotation, but they capped the season with a 63-52 win against Whiteland in the sectional opener, giving Hahn his first tournament win as a head coach.
Hahn was asked if those were signs of incremental progress for the program as a whole.
“I don’t think a number (of wins) necessarily defines your success in a season,” he said. “I look more at internal things. Did you improve every day? Over the last three years that’s happened. And I think this is the best team I’ve had since I’ve been here.
“The first year we won our last four games of the season, three of them against ranked teams. Last season we beat a solid Mooresville team at Mooresville, which is a hard place to get a win. Then we turned around and beat Brownsburg. After that we beat Whiteland, who had the best team they’ve had in years, winning 17 games.
“Your goal is always to be playing your best basketball at the end of the season, and I think we’ve done that.
“We’ve been playing our best at the right time.”
The Trojans’ 2016-2017 schedule includes visits to Whiteland (December 16) and Perry Meridian (December 20). At home, Center Grove will host several local teams, including Greenwood (December 30). The annual Johnson County Tournament will be January 10-14.