With four returning starters/lettermen from last year’s 13-11 team plus a talented supporting cast, the Van Wert Cougars appear primed to have an enjoyable 2018-2019 boys’ basketball season.
Three of the returning starters are seniors: 6-2 wing Nate Place (11 points, four rebounds per game), 6-4 post Drew Bagley (11 points, six rebounds per game) and 6-6 wing Blake Henry (eight points per game). The other returning starter is 5-10 sophomore guard Owen Treece, who averaged six points per game as a freshman.
“The complexion of our team will be speed, quickness, size, and athleticism with players who are versatile enough to play both inside and out,” sixth year head coach Mark Bagley said. “We hope to have the ability to score from all five spots on the floor and to improve our consistency from the perimeter as we look to play fast and attack the defense inside/out. The versatility of the team should make for some tough match-ups by using depth, size, and quickness.”
Bagley is in need of players to replace three graduated seniors – All-Ohioan and 1,000 point scorer Jacoby Kelly and tough defenders Jonathan Lee and Thane Cowen. Sophomore guards LeTrey Williams and Clayton Proffitt saw some varsity action last season and could step into expanded roles this year. Juniors Jake Hilleary, Tanner Barnhart, along with senior Lawson Blackmore are expected to contribute as well.
“All players in the entire program have worked hard in the off season to become better athletes, basketball players, leaders, and are anxious to begin the season,” Bagley stated. “The emphasis and focus has been on the individual improvement of skill level and mental/physical toughness to compete and finish close games.”
“An important area of emphasis will be our team offense and our ability to score and make shots by running for layups, finishing post moves inside, offensive rebounds, and getting transition from our defense,” Bagley continued. “Improved defense and rebounding is a huge point of emphasis in the off season as we gave up too many layups and offensive rebounds last season.”
Two different non-conference opponents are on this year’s schedule. Parkway and Ottoville replace Minster and Fort Wayne Carroll, but that doesn’t mean things will be any easier.
“We play a very demanding schedule in both our league (WBL) and non-league including defending Division IV state champion Marion Local, Crestview, Lincolnview, Lima Central Catholic, Wayne Trace, and St Henry,” Bagley said. “There may be times that teams are more talented, but we will play together and work harder in order to find a way to compete and win each night.”
“Defending champion Ottawa Glandorf and Shawnee look to be the early frontrunners for the WBL title with Van Wert, Defiance, Wapakoneta and Kenton right in that mix of teams with lots of returning players,” Bagley added.
Friday’s scheduled opener against Crestview will be played on January 5, meaning the Cougars will open the 2018-2019 season Saturday at Lincolnview. The game, along with all Van Wert games will air on WERT 1220AM/104.3FM.