Prep boys basketball: Fairfield hopes to surprise in Year 2 under Sims

3:02 p.m Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017 Journal-News Sports
Fairfield’s Blake Spaulding goes up for a shot during the Indians’ game at Hamilton on Jan. 24, 2017. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Jeff Sims believes his Fairfield High School boys basketball team will be competitive in the Greater Miami Conference this year.

The Indians were 11-13 overall and 5-11 in the GMC, finishing in an eighth-place tie, in Sims’ first season at the helm. And they graduated six of their top seven scorers.

Yet Sims likes what he’s been seeing in the preseason.

“They’ve been a really good group to coach,” Sims said. “We don’t have a lot of D-I coaches coming in and looking at us like Princeton does, but there’s always somebody that surprises you in the GMC. Maybe a lot of people will look at our roster and won’t know some of those names as well as we know them, but we’re going to compete pretty hard. We’re going to come at you really, really hard, and I think that will allow us to compete with any of those teams up at the top.”

Fairfield may not have a lot of varsity experience, but the squad has some good size, is long on athleticism and plans to utilize an up-tempo style.

“We’re going to build on defense,” Sims said. “I think we’re going to have to pressure, but not like crazy, all-out pressure. I think we’re athletic enough that once we get in the halfcourt, we can take away some passing lanes and get some loose balls. I think we’re going to be really good in transition. Long rebounds, turnovers — we can make those into buckets.”

Senior Blake Spaulding, a 6-foot point guard, is the lone returning full-time starter. He averaged 4.4 points, 3.1 assists and 2.2 rebounds per game last year.

“Last year he was just asked to distribute. We’re going to allow him to score more,” Sims said. “Blake’s had a great summer and fall and shot the ball really well, so we’ll probably play him off the ball some. We’re going to design some things to make sure we’re patient enough to where the ball comes back to him.”

Senior guard Kyle Schimpf (5-11) and junior forward Jeff Tyus (6-5) are back after spending some time in the starting lineup in 2016-17. They collected 5.1 points and 3.8 rebounds per contest between them.

There’s not a lot of varsity experience on the rest of the roster, but Sims said there’s plenty of skills. Junior forward Devin Turner (6-3) and junior guard Tink English (5-10) were active scorers at the junior varsity level.

“They’re guys that are used to scoring, so we’re hoping they can take role and put it on varsity,” Sims said.

Senior guard Chase Pennington (6-0) is one of the Indians’ best 3-point shooters, along with Schimpf and Spaulding.

“We can shoot the 3, but we’re not going to have anybody out there just chucking it,” Sims said. “We want to shoot the right 3-point shot. I don’t know if we always did that last year.”

Junior forward Isaiah Phillips (6-7) returns after an injury limited him to seven varsity games last season.

Senior Noah Bauman (5-9), junior Peyton Brown (5-10) and sophomore Zavien Ricks (5-10) add depth to the guard position. Juniors Allen Caldwell (6-2) and Malachi Scenters (6-3) are in the forward mix along with senior Isaiah Coleman (6-3), a football player who chose not to play basketball last year.

“Coleman’s got great hands,” Sims said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s starting or playing significant minutes by midseason.”

Fairfield will be on the road Dec. 1 to open the season against Elder.

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