News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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November 21, 2012

SEASON PREVIEW: Braves need young players to step up

Injuries, graduation take toll on roster

TERRE HAUTE — Scott Ridge has been looking forward to seeing the leaders from a Terre Haute South junior varsity high school boys basketball team that went 15-4 during the 2011-2012 season move up to the varsity squad he coaches.

Thanks to some unforeseen circumstances, he’ll be seeing them right now.

The Braves competed during the summer with a couple of football players in their lineup, but Logan Steward suffered an injury and Danny Etling graduated early to get a head start on his career as a college quarterback. Another football player, who had showed promise as a sophomore basketball player, flirted with returning to the sport but decided against that.

So South enters the season with just three experienced players from last year’s 8-15 team and six athletes moving up from last year’s JV; if Friday night’s jamboree — in which the Braves won both their quarters including the one against Terre Haute North — is any indication, everything might work out fine.

“We have good athletes and good shooters,” Ridge said.

Leading the way for South is one of the unique players in the state. Jeffrey Turner, a 6-foot-2 senior about to become a four-year regular, is coming off a season in which he averaged 18.9 points, 9.9 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game and is capable of playing any of the five positions offensively.

That’s almost where the 2011-2012 statistics end, however. The other returnees with varsity experience are 5-11 senior Kevaris Gregory, who has seen two years of part-time action as a 3-point shooting specialist, and 6-2 senior Preston Tofaute, whose specialties have been defense and hustle.

A fourth senior, 5-11 Shane Stanley, is one of the players moving up to varsity play, and the 6-0 Steward hopes to return to the court by mid-January.

The rest of the rotation could consist of five sophomores — 6-4 Timmy Herrin, 6-4 Greg Newton, 6-0 Conner Shipley, 6-0 Spence Tofaute and 5-10 Jared Wolfe. Two juniors, 6-2 Jerad Fuson and 6-1 Da’Shon Heyen, are expected to see most of their playing time on the junior varsity team, at least early in the season.

“It will be important for them to have the attitude of a varsity player when they get out there,” Ridge said of his newcomers. “We’ll have to transfer [that JV success] to the next level.”

The Braves obviously won’t scare anyone when they get off the bus, but that 15-4 JV team last year was dwarfed by several of the teams it played too.

“We know we’re going to be undersized,” Ridge said. “Shot selection will have to be one of our main strengths … these kids shoot well and pass well, so if we make good decisions, we’ll be OK.”

That decision-making capability is there, the coach said.

“This is a smart group,” Ridge noted. “They play smart, and they play together.”

And while shot selection is important, the Braves don’t plan to slow the game down either.

“We’d like to play a little faster,” Ridge said. “We have a little more speed than last year … and we’ll have to get out and guard people.”

South’s regular-season opener was Wednesday at Bloomington North.

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