Coming into this season, Lima Senior head coach Quincey Simpson said his team has the most depth he has had in his eight years coaching the Spartans and he feels it can be a special season.
However, the Spartan head coach adds there is a lot of work to do before they begin printing tickets to the state championships.
Lima Senior opens the year against Findlay on Friday followed by a non-league affair against Mansfield Senior. Both are at home.
Last year’s team went 21-5 overall and made it to the regional finals. The majority of those players are back and they include Khalil Luster, Jareon Mayo, Camren Miles, Anthony Mosely, Quintel Wilson, Shalom Stout, Cecil Benton, Brent Moss and Tyrese Austin. All of these players saw major minutes last year and joining them will be seniors Brian Hines, juniors Brandon Moore and Amerion Glenn and freshman Jagger Hutchins.
Luster was a first-team, all-Three Rivers Athletic Conference selection who averaged 13.8 points a game and Miles, who averaged 10.6 points a contest, was a second-team choice. Mayo and Mosley received honorable mention honors.
“We have a lot of depth and a lot of guys who can do some different things,” Simpson said. “We have guys that can make shots. We have some guys that can do things different defensively so we are excited at this moment at what we are seeing but we have a long way to go before we get better. There are a lot of positive things we are saying but we are seeing a ton of negative things.”
Simpson points to his team’s defense as one of the areas the team still needs to work on.
“We have to work on being disciplined defensively and playing with our hands being active and not touching guys,” Simpson said. “We need to stride over more in the help position more and protecting the rim and making sure we box out on every possession. We are not doing that every possession right now.”
Simpson adds that it is still early and the team is slowly making progress and getting better defensively.
One might think with a veteran team that returns four starters would have developed some team chemistry and the players’ roles were defined but Simpson said that it is quite the opposite. This is another area the team is striving to get better at in practice and the early part of the season.
“When you have so much talents, guys have to trust each other and they have to trust the system and the ball is going to rotate and we don’t have that,” Simpson said. “We have some guys that are high level players in my opinion and some of the best kids in the area, so they have to buy in and just trusting each other a little more, and again it is early and we haven’t had a game yet but I think once we get rolling that will come.”
The Spartans rely on its defense to get transition points, something Lima Senior thrived on last year.
Offense is something Simpson said he is not overly concerned about. Last year the Spartans demonstrated they bring a well-balanced approach where they can score inside or outside. The Spartans averaged 64.6 points a game and scored 70 or more points in 11 games.
“We want to make sure spacing is good and make good reads when we penetrate,” Simpson said. “We want to make sure we set solid screens and just make sure the ball travels east and west. We don’t want guys being ball stoppers where they are dribbling in place and not going anywhere. We want our guys cutting hard to the basket. We want the ball rotating side to side and that gives us the best opportunity to get downhill and get two feet in the paint whether that’s penetration and kicking for outside shots or getting it two feet in and finishing around the rim.”
Because of all the talent, Simpson admits that the team does not have a starting lineup or rotation of who is coming off the bench and the Lima Senior head coach will be evaluating these early games to see what players step up to gain minutes.
“I look at the bench and I am still wondering who I should put in because guys can bring different things to the table,” Simpson said. “It makes our practices better and a lot more competitive. The guys have to lock in and do things we as a staff want and those guys will get those opportunities.
Understanding roles is something Simpson said he stresses to the players and tells them not everybody is a scorer but can make contributions in other ways.
“That is not us handcuffing you but you have to understand your role and be a star in your role and if you can buy into that you are going to be the one getting those minutes.”
Lima Senior has had several scrimmages and Simpson points out that they have used different lineups and different guys off the bench and expects to have something more in place in terms of a rotation by the third or fourth game but that could change. He adds that players who bring it day in and day out will be rewarded with opportunities and minutes.
Toughness and fight are also things Simpson will be looking for in the early part of the season. As always, the Spartans have a tough schedule and collecting wins will not be easy.
As always expectations are extremely high for Lima Senior and Simpson admits that if things fall into place and the players do what is expected of them, the Spartans can secure another TRAC title, its fourth straight, and another deep journey into the postseason.
“I think if these guys, and I know I talk about it a lot, but if these guys can buy in letting our defense be our best offense we can go far,” Simpson said. “I think if these guys trust each other enough to share the ball and understand when you have a team with four dominant players … they all have to understand their spots and if it’s your game we are going to play through you and if not we expect you to play through whoever else.”
Simpson adds that he closely follows teams in Division I and can rattle off how good they are and what they are capable of and he said on paper there are legitimately four or five, maybe six teams that can play for a state title.
“I wouldn’t put Lima Senior in the top three or four but we are definitely in the five or six range,” Simpson said. “Now if my guys can buy in and do the things I just spoke about we can be special and surprise a lot of people.”