Darren Doyle, story and photos
Picking up where the Wildcats left off last season isn't exactly what ECHS head boys basketball coach Mike McClintic (Coach Mac) has in mind for the upcoming season which begins next week. Last year's 17-10 team was in a great position to bring home the first district title in 23 years but was upset in the first round of the District 12 Tournament by Butler County, which ended their season.
"We don't talk about it because everyone knows it," Mac said. "I've said it before, I'll say it again: I made some bad coaching decisions that cost us and it hurt the team. We're not going to let it happen again. Those guys came back this year and I noticed somebody had written 'End The Drought' on the board. I didn't know what it was...turns out our seniors had put that up there as a constant reminder the goal for this year is to end the drought of a district championship."
With losing five seniors from last year's squad, two of which that led the team in both scoring and rebounding, the landscape of the current team is obviously changed, but Coach Mac says he's very optimistic thanks to the leadership he's already seen from his new seniors, Iszic Blankenship, Bailey Board, Caleb Skaggs, Daniel Caudill, and Peyton Talley.
"There's not a lot of motivation that we have to find for these guys," Mac said. "They already have that, and that's thanks to our senior leadership. They're leading by example, at practice, in the locker room, and outside the gym. These are good kids and we're staying positive as a group."
He grinned as he leaned back in his chair. "We have to light a fire under these guys occasionally, but that goes with any group of kids."
Coach Mac said he feels like the key for this team's success is a complete team effort.
"We'll have to play every single game as a team. In our practices and scrimmages, these guys have proven that they're willing to make the extra pass, they're willing to give up themselves for the betterment of the team, and they run the floor really well. They're in great shape so far, and that's thanks to Coach Weaver. He's done a great job with these guys. But we're focusing on a team effort. We play a tough schedule and if we start going individual instead of a team, we're not going to be very good."
He said that while the focus is obviously "team," there are individual roles that his guys have to play. The first one he mentioned was 6'7" senior center/forward Iszic Blankenship.
"We're going to utilize Iszic's inside game and get him involved down low, but he can also step out of the paint. Daniel Caudill is back this year and he's a great athlete and very strong. Daniel understands his role already and that's huge. We've got solid perimeter players with Seniors Bailey Board and Caleb Skaggs and we have great options for each one. Junior Tucker Cole will be handling things at point guard and then we have guys like Peyton (Talley), Logan Lindsey, Brayden Carey, that will be coming off the bench. Some of our younger guys will have bench roles, too like J.T. Vincent, (Logan) Minton, and (Dylan) Elmore. It's really a total team effort."
Coach Mac said they're not getting the preseason rankings that he thought they deserved, as the Wildcats aren't favored in District 12, didn't make the Region 3 top 10, and only made it to number 4 in the All A State Rankings.
"That's ok," he said with another grin. "It's just more motivation."
His goal for this team is to continue to improve throughout the year and come into the district tournament at their very best. "That's my goal and that's my job. If you ask these guys, it's to bring home the district championship. They've got a bad taste in their mouth and they're tired of losing in the tournament. We're looking for a great season. We've got great kids."
The Wildcats are scheduled to play their first game of the season Tuesday, November 29, on the road at Breckinridge County in a JV/V match-up with JV tip off at 5:30. The game will be broadcast live on WildcatsLive with Jamie and DD. The first home game is scheduled for Friday, Dec 2 against Allen County.
Watch for our upcoming Lady Cat Basketball preview with head coach Kevin Jackson that will be published soon.