MIDDLETOWN — Pat Kreke looks around his Fenwick High School boys basketball practice and sees enough size to know this is a different situation for him.
“To be honest, it’s a taller team than I’ve ever had as far as kids that can play,” said Kreke, beginning his 30th year at the helm. “Those two kids inside are as big and talented as I’ve had in a long time, if not forever.”
Senior C.J. Napier, a 6-foot-5 forward, and A.J. Braun, a 6-8 sophomore center, are those two inside kids. Braun was mostly a junior varsity player last season, while Napier has been among the Greater Catholic League Coed North Division’s premier players since his sophomore year.
BOYS BASKETBALL SEASON PREVIEW
The Falcons are the defending North Division champions and went 17-7 last season.
“I would like to think this team has that kind of potential if they play well,” Kreke said. “But it’s really too early to tell. I have to see them when the lights are on.”
Napier and 5-11 senior guard Caleb Davis are the two returning regulars, and 5-9 senior guard Jared Morris also has a bit of starting experience.
Napier averaged 15 points and a GCL Coed-leading 8.8 rebounds per game as a junior.
“I don’t think he needs to do more. I think he’s got a better supporting cast this year than he’s ever had,” Kreke said. “He’s a great leader in the classroom and on the floor. He’s the real deal.
“The thing about C.J. is he’s had to battle the other team’s big kid defensively. Now, as far as having to bang down low, we’ve got Braun inside. Hopefully that will open C.J. up a little bit more on the outside.”
Braun has obvious rebounding skills, but wasn’t a big scorer with the junior varsity last year. Kreke said he’s shown offensive promise in the preseason.
Davis is the No. 2 returning scorer for Fenwick after averaging 5.4 points, 4.2 boards, 1.6 steals and 1.5 assists a game last year. He’s also one of the squad’s best defenders.
Travis Dahm, a 5-11 senior guard, and 5-9 junior guard Jordan Rucker will be significant contributors, while 6-3 senior forward Michael Boon, 6-2 senior forward Thomas Vogelsang and 6-2 junior guard Dan Luers could play key roles as well.
Also in the mix are 6-2 junior forward Tyler Houck, 5-11 senior guard Sully Janeck, 6-3 senior center Craig Schuermann and 5-10 sophomore guard Chase Mulligan.
“I think we’ve got a lot of kids that can play this year, although to be honest I’ve thought that the last two years and as time went on, we didn’t play a lot of people,” Kreke said. “But I think we’ve got a lot of different kids that can go in and out at different positions and be competitive.”
He said Fenwick’s overall quickness is pretty good and that foot speed increased when football season ended and Rucker, Davis and Vogelsang moved to the hardwood.
The Falcons will open the season at Edgewood on Dec. 4. Fenwick leads the series — which began in 1970-71 — by a 56-24 margin.
Kreke has a 364-297 record since becoming the Falcons’ head coach in 1989-90.
Coach: Pat Kreke (30th season)
2017-18 Record: 17-7 overall, 7-3 GCLC North (first place)
OHSAA Classification: Division II
Schedule: Dec. 4 — at Edgewood, 7:30 p.m.; Dec. 7 — Roger Bacon, 7:30 p.m.; Dec. 8 — Talawanda, 7:30 p.m.; Dec. 14 — at Purcell Marian, 7:30 p.m.; Dec. 15 — at Lebanon, 7 p.m.; Dec. 21 — Carroll, 7:30 p.m.; Dec. 28 — vs. Gnadenhutten Indian Valley at Tuscarawas Central Catholic Holiday Shootout, 8 p.m.; Dec. 29 — vs. Columbus Hartley at Tuscarawas Central Catholic Holiday Shootout, 2:45 p.m.; Jan. 4 — Chaminade Julienne, 7:30 p.m.; Jan. 5 — Valley View, 7:30 p.m.; Jan. 11 — at Alter, 7:30 p.m.; Jan. 12 — Monroe, 7:30 p.m.; Jan. 18 — Badin, 7:30 p.m.; Jan. 19 — Clinton-Massie, 7:30 p.m.; Jan. 22 — Reading, 7:30 p.m.; Jan. 25 — at McNicholas, 7:30 p.m.; Jan. 29 — Miamisburg, 7:30 p.m.; Feb. 1 — at Carroll, 7:30 p.m.; Feb. 2 — St. Xavier, 7:30 p.m.; Feb. 8 — at Chaminade Julienne, 7:30 p.m.; Feb. 12 — at Oakwood, 7:30 p.m.; Feb. 15 — Alter, 7:30 p.m.