ST. CLAIR TWP. — Edgewood High School’s boys basketball team is something of an unknown heading into this season.
John Thomas will begin his 11th year at the helm with a mostly new roster that includes just one guy who was a full-time varsity Cougar in 2017-18. That’s Gabe Allen, who averaged 3.8 points per game.
“The judgment is still out on us with one returning varsity player,” said Thomas, whose squad went 11-11 last year. “But I can tell you this: I like these kids. I love coming to practice. I love working with them. They’re keeping my energy up.
BOYS BASKETBALL SEASON PREVIEWS
“We’ve got to get better, we all know it. The question is, what’s going to be that curve right now? Is it going to be next Monday or will it take six Mondays? I don’t know. We’ll see.”
Allen, a 6-foot-2 senior guard, and 6-7 senior center Isaiah Gambrell are the leaders of the team, according to Thomas. Gambrell is coming off an 11-game varsity season and averaged 2.3 points and 1.6 boards per contest.
Sophomore Aaron Frazier, a 6-3 forward, and 6-2 junior forward Eric Brooks are the only other returnees who saw any varsity time with Edgewood last year.
The Cougars have added 6-2 junior guard Johnathan Shepherd, a transfer who collected 10.4 points and 2.6 rebounds per game at Carlisle last year. He’s only eligible for the first 11 games this season.
Peyton Daley, a 5-10 junior, figures to be the point guard, and 6-1 senior Zach Hamilton joins Allen in the 2/3 guard positions. Logan Loftus, a 6-1 senior, and Drew Vallandingham, a 6-1 junior, are also in the guard-rotation mix.
Also on the roster are 6-0 junior center Max Collett, 6-0 sophomore forward Evan Rainey, 5-10 sophomore guard Anthony Scott and 6-0 freshman guard Caleb Allen.
“I think Gabe and Isaiah will be the leaders, but on any given night, we could find somebody stepping up and taking some of the scoring load,” Thomas said. “I think any good team’s got to have somebody step up. If we had LeBron, we’d be counting on one guy. But this is high school basketball.
“They’re all going to have their nights. We run a motion offense, and one of the good things about a motion offense is if you run it effectively, it can cause people some problems. The back side of the motion is that everybody gets a touch, so their shot decisions better be good.”
Thomas said the team’s quickness isn’t bad — “We’re not overly quick, but we’re not slow by any means,” he said — and he’s got a number of players who can be effective 3-point shooters.
“I don’t know how you can be on any team anymore and not consider the 3-pointer an important thing,” Thomas said. “I think hospitals have put in basketball courts, and when you’re at birth, they put you behind the 3-point line and tell you to fire way. It’s a big part of the game. Kids like to shoot it. They’re going to shoot it. You just hope it goes in.
“I hope they defend. That’s generally what we try to hang our hat on.”
Former Edgewood standout Xavier Fugate has joined Thomas’ staff as a varsity assistant. This is his first season coaching after a stint in the U.S. Army.
The Cougars open the season at Monroe on Friday. Edgewood has won their last three meetings by a combined 10 points, all in overtime.
Coach: John Thomas (11th season)
2017-18 Record: 11-11 overall, 6-6 SWOC (fourth place)
OHSAA Classification: Division I
Schedule: Nov. 30 — at Monroe, 7:30 p.m.; Dec. 4 — Fenwick, 7:30 p.m.; Dec. 8 — at Madison, 7 p.m.; Dec. 11 — Winton Woods, 7:30 p.m.; Dec. 14 — Northwest, 7:30 p.m.; Dec. 18 — at Harrison, 7:30 p.m.; Dec. 21 — at Ross, 7:30 p.m.; Dec. 22 — at Milford, 7 p.m.; Dec. 28 — Badin, 7:30 p.m.; Jan. 4 — at Talawanda, 7:30 p.m.; Jan. 8 — Little Miami, 7:30 p.m.; Jan. 11 — Mount Healthy, 7:30 p.m.; Jan. 15 — at Kings, 7:30 p.m.; Jan. 18 — at Northwest, 7:30 p.m.; Jan. 22 — Harrison, 7:30 p.m.; Jan. 25 — Ross, 7:30 p.m.; Jan. 26 — at Valley View, 7:15 p.m.; Feb. 2 — Franklin, 7:30 p.m.; Feb. 5 — Talawanda, 7:30 p.m.; Feb. 8 — at Little Miami, 7:30 p.m.; Feb. 12 — at Lebanon, 7 p.m.; Feb. 15 — at Mount Healthy, 7:30 p.m.