Two games into the season and Lima Central Catholic is still searching for an identity.
The Thunderbirds went 1-1 in the annual MercyHealth Tip Off tournament last weekend, beating Bath in the opener and then losing to Shawnee and head coach Frank Kill said this team is still looking for the right chemistry.
Because of the pandemic and the T-Birds football team making a deep run in the playoffs, Kill said this gave the younger players a chance to develop. however, it prevented the team from getting in quality practice together. The LCC head coach points this team has had seven practices together prior to the opening of the season.
“Starting off without your experienced guys because of football, it allowed us to get somethings going that we haven’t previously done and that is build our youth from the bottom up and with DeMar Foster we have been able to see him early and it has allowed him to gain some confidence early and develop some leadership skills,” Kill said.
Foster, who was named an all-tournament performer in the tip-off tournament is one of a number of younger players Kill is trying to marry with some of the veterans on the team such as Rossy Moore, Nate Stolly and Even Unruh.
In addition to those returners, Thunderbirds looking to garner some minutes are seniors Ross Otto, Christian Guagenti and Joey Rinehart along with juniors Bryan Hines, Meshaud Moore, Seth Mikesell, Keiron Bailey and Reed Doneghy.
Kill pointed to the Shawnee squad, which is a veteran group, and played like one in the two-day tournament where they dominated teams and the Thunderbirds are hoping to accomplish that as the season progresses,.
“Chemistry is really important and we are building on chemistry with Seth Mikesell coming and DeMar Foster, two guys that are new and only having really Rossy, Nate and Evan from last year’s team that played a lot,” Kill said. “We just didn’t have a whole lot of chemistry. When you are a good team and want to be a great team you have to have that chemistry.”
Kill adds that because of the covid and not being able to go to summer camps as well as early preseason workouts, it put the Thunderbirds behind in terms of having these individuals play as a unit.
Kill said the first step into becoming a cohesive squad starts with leadership and right now the obvious leader is Moore. The senior, who excelled on the gridiron, will try to bring that same type of guidance and grit to the hardwood.
Kill said prior to the season he spoke with Moore and told him that it is time to become that leader.
“I spoke to him in our one-on-ones and I said you remember what it was like being a freshman and a sophomore and what leadership meant to you so you are going to have to take these young pups under your wing and show them the ropes,” Kill said. “He has done a great job so far whether its driving kids here or there or picking kids up but he been a great guy in practice with his energy and emotion and that is what we need. He just brings fun to practice everyday. Whether it is raining or snowing he always has a positive attitude.”
Kill sees other seniors like Guagenti and Stolly who he expects big things from as well who he said both had great off seasons and another pair of seniors, Rinehart and Otto to also contribute and come out of their shells in their final year of play.
“As seniors this is your last shining moment so why no go out with a bang and get after it because there is no next year and right now every day could be our last so let’s use every day as our last and practice as hard as possible,” Kill said.
After leadership, Kill knows that this team will need to find the roles each are going to play and how. It was evident in the first two games that the roster is being mixed and matched as Kill search for the right combination of players that will bring them wins.
Kill expects Unruh to play a big part in the Thunderbirds and is looking for him, like Moore, to bring some of that winning mentality to the court.
“We know we are athletic. We know we are fast but can we play basketball,” Kill said. “This isn’t a track race. We know our skills are going to have to play a focal point in everything. We aren’t the tallest team and it seemed like we got outrebounded by like a million on Saturday (against Shawnee), but we have the mentality of a champion because we don’t accept losing.”
Kill admits that it was tough getting beat by Shawnee by more than 40 points and demoralizing and he said it showed in his team after the game but he quickly reminded the team that it is just game two and there is still is plenty of basketball before tournament play in March.
“Stepping stones,” Kill said. “Not being in a conference we have to find positives in everything. Can you find positives in a 42 point loss.” I thought the first half we played pretty well and will take those first two quarter and try forget the last two.”
As he enters the rest of the season Kill said he is looking for good vibes and positive reinforcement that we they are moving in the right direction and build on the little things.
As far as expectations, Kill admits he really doesn’t know in terms of wins because of the strength of schedule and it is loaded with another game against Shawnee, along with battles against Ottawa-Glandorf, Crestview, Ashland and Kalida.
“It is a brutal schedule and then we start the new year with St. John’s and Perry so it doesn’t get any easier so expectations for us to keep getting better and whether it is a winning percentage or knowing we played to the best of our ability,” Kill said. “I think when you start a freshman point guard you are trying to build something there and I think we did at the tip-off classic. I know it is cliché but we just want to get better every day but at this point. I don’t have low expectations. I expect to win every game.”