Cardinals looking to fill Niedens’ role on court
Eudora's boys basketball team is ready to give it another shot, even without its best shooter.
Graduated star Kaleb Niedens led the Cardinals to a 15-8 record last year. His 15.4 points-per-game were a team-high.
But this year's squad will have to rely on the steady play of a handful of returning letter-winners and the emergence of a new outside threat.
"Obviously it is one of our big problems," said head coach Scott Stein. "We lost a really good outside shooter, and I still don't know where our outside scoring is going to come from."
There are a few Cards who are eager to audition for Niedens' vacated role. The talent search began Nov. 17, when the winter sports teams began practicing.
Unfortunately the school was hit hard by a bout with influenza. As many as 10 of the program's 32 players were consistently absent from practice.
Flu epidemic aside, practice appears to have started on an optimistic note.
"All in all, I'm pleased with the intensity so far," Stein said. "The flu kind of put a wrinkle in everything, but I'm pleased with what I have been able to see. You never know until you start playing, though."
The Cardinals will rely heavily on the inside-out threat of all-league senior point guard Tyler Cleveland and all-league honorable mention senior post Chris Gabriel.
The five-foot-seven-inch Cleveland is tough and reliable -- both traits that suited him well as a quarterback on Eudora's football team. He averaged 8.4 points, 5.4 assists and 1.4 steals per game last year. He led the team in assists (119) and steals (32).
However, Cleveland will need to cut down on his 80 turnovers this year.
"I expect him to lead this team, and know what I want out there," Stein said. "He is a really good kid and a strong competitor."
At 6-3, Gabriel is the man the Cards are counting on to pick up the slack. A big powerful force on the blocks, Gabriel averaged 9.8 points and seven rebounds per game last season. He led the team in offensive rebounds, defensive rebounds, blocks and field goal percentage.
Gabriel also led the team in fouls -- something he can't do this year because the Cards need his presence on the court.
"I know that he will be able to get the job done on the inside," Stein said.
But both are coming off significant injuries suffered on the football field. Cleveland fractured his collarbone on the opening drive of the season, and Gabriel was forced to leave the team with a broken wing early in the season. Yet Stein was confident both would be fine.
Jesse Montgomery, a 6-3 senior, is expected to start in place of graduated big-man Andrew Bell. Montgomery was used primarily as a defensive stopper last season, averaging 1.4 points and 1.7 rebounds per game. Bell averaged 6.5 and 4.6, respectively.
From there it gets a little cloudier. Eudora still has to replace Niedens and fellow starting graduate Tyler Jackson.
The pot that Stein will stew includes senior newcomer Josh Lauer, senior senior newcomer Josh Lauer (5-9), Josh Brouhard (5-9), senior Aaron Westerhouse (5-11), 6-foot junior Jeremy Bryant, and junior Cole Massey (5-10).
Brouhard is the only member of the group who averaged more than a point per game last year. The undersized slasher averaged three points and 3.3 rebounds per game.
Lauer is the wildcard in the group. Big things are expected of the senior transfer.
At 6-2, junior Joe Kaup will play an important role backing up a relatively short squad.
Even when Eudora finalizes its lineup, there will be offensive concerns. The class of 2003 took with it half of the team's scoring.
This year's Cardinals could stress intensity on defense and emphasize the transition game offensively.
"I really think we'll surprise people with how hard-nosed we'll play and how tough we'll be defensively," Stein said. "We really want to push the ball and get looks before the defense is set."
The Cards have surprised the Eudora community before, like last year. Few expected the Cardinals to play as well as they did.
"I don't think a lot of people expect us to be very good this year either," Stein said. "But I view this team as very similar to last year's.
"That's what's fun about high school athletics -- you never know what's going to happen."