With football season now over, players start to take the basketball court as the new season is underway. As the basketballs bounce high so do the upcoming hopes and goals for the Highlanders this season. With the success of last year, this year’s team looks to build on and try to continue the winning tradition.
Last year the Highlanders finished with a record of 15-8. Losing key players like Cody Banet, Brandon Codey, and Jeffery Thompson detracts from the overall experience of the team, this year’s team appears to be just as experienced with six seniors and six juniors on this year’s squad. Filling the void left behind by those seniors will not be easy, but returning a core group of players will help ease the role.
The Highlanders will have an easier task because they have now gone through one more year of head coach Randy Gianfagna’s system. Based upon last year’s results, it seems to be working. Gianfagna has had great success as a head coach with a 161-134 overall record. His 33-53 record as head coach of the Highlanders though does not accurately represent his overall success. Despite the record as Highlanders coach, Gianfagna’s Highlanders had a lot of success last season. His players have continued to grow and gain valuable experience playing in his system.
“We played in tournaments at Purdue, Salem, and in Louisville. We have really worked on our skill work and our weight training,” said Gianfagna.
This year’s squad appears to have a significant athleticism and overall depth advantage compared to other teams in the past. Juniors Jordan Thompson and Nick Bombersbach are two athletically gifted players on the team. Adding multi-talented players like senior Jeremy Jefferies and junior Tanner Wortham will add more depth to the bench.
“Our overall depth is good. I think 1-19 Junior Varsity through Varsity is the deepest we have ever been. With our depth, it makes our practices more competitive,” said Gianfagna.
Last year the Highlanders made strides in big games, but when they played tough competition they struggled. When the Highlanders played their heated rival the New Albany Bulldogs last season at FC, the Bulldogs brought their A game. The Bulldogs and their dynamic duo with Donnie Hale and Chris Whitehead defeated the Highlanders. This season New Albany and Jeffersonville seem to be two of the better teams the Highlanders will play this year.
“We have to cut down on the turnovers. We also need to rebound the basketball better,” said Gianfagna.
The Highlanders will have to plug in a lot of new players into key roles. The team has to replace 67% of their scoring, rebounding, and assists from this past season. The team lost their top three leading scorers, top four assists leaders, and their leading rebounder from last year’s squad. Gianfagna said he believes that two players in particular will ease into those roles.
“I think Barret will step up a lot. He’s a three year part time starter and we hope he will average a double-double. Connor will help in scoring, and a lot of other guys will surprise people,” said Gianfagna.
Gianfagna said that junior Connor Schellenberg will help this team with his scoring ability. Schellenberg indeed has a great ability to score, and he said he has worked a lot in the off-season on his game.
“I have done a lot of personal workouts with my AAU coach, and I shoot for a couple hours almost everyday,” said Schellenberg.
The team has its eyes set for a sectional championship. Because they will have to play a lot of great teams, their goals are set high. Junior Jordan Thompson said he and his teammates have high hopes and expectations for this season.
“We want to win sectionals, beat our rivals, and become better basketball players,” said Thompson.