WEST TERRE HAUTE —
There may not be many things one can predict about the upcoming West Vigo High School boys basketball season, but one fact seems indisputable.
It’s going to be different.
Different first of all because four-year regulars Jordan Houser and Cody Thornton, plus unheralded starting forward Nathan Gregg, will all be missing from the six-player rotation that was in effect for most of last year’s 11-12 season.
Another difference? That six-man rotation looks to be a thing of the past, with the possibility of twice that many Vikings seeing action in any particular game or situation.
Even coach Joe Boehler isn’t quite sure what to expect, although he’s looking forward to finding out.
The half of last year’s regulars who return are a trio of seniors — 5-11 starting guard Cade Lindsey, 5-7 sixth man Kyle Stewart and 6-1 center Adrien Corenflos. All three are known for their competitiveness with Corenflos — just now returning to full practice after a knee injury — making up for lack of height with smarts and strength inside.
After those three, the battles for playing time begin in earnest. Two seniors, 6-3 (and 135-pound) Aaron Kirby and 6-0 Lance Stonebarger are in the mix, Kirby moving up from the junior varsity and Stonebarger a first-year player with promise.
Leading a large sophomore group right now are 6-0 Braiden Cardinal, 6-1 Hayden Corenflos (Adrien’s play-alike brother) and 6-1 Alex West plus a pair of transfers, 6-2 Grant Daley and 5-10 Tyler Wilson.
Three of the school’s better athletes — 5-10 junior Jimmy Maples, 5-10 sophomore Alec Blair and 5-9 sophomore Tyler Hayes — are also fighting for spots (although Hayes is still recuperating from an injury that cost him the entire football season), as is 6-0 senior Kaleb Wilkinson. And 5-6 sophomore Keagan McClain and 6-1 junior Tanner Stolfe are probably ticketed for mostly junior varsity duty.
That’s 16 varsity candidates, and Boehler said recently, “There’s not a major dropoff … they all bring something to the table.”
What’s absent from that table are proven varsity scorers — Houser, for the previous couple of years, was not only the team’s leading scorer but also the target of defensive double-teams that left other Vikings open — and, of course, size. Boehler is still waiting to coach a tall West Vigo team — this is his fifth season — although he could have one in a year or two.
“The summer was good for us, and the kids made a lot of strides the last two weeks [of preseason practice],” Boehler said. “At times we look really good … it’s a matter of being consistent.”
The lengthy roster usually provides some interesting practice scrimmages for the Vikings — last year, Boehler said, those were determined by which team Houser was on — and thanks to North Vermillion’s football success (postponing West Vigo’s usual opener this week), the Vikings have another week to work things out.
That’s good for Adrien Corenflos — Hayes is probably a little farther away from participation — but a mixed blessing for the Vikings: their first three games are Western Indiana Conference contests, none of them at West Vigo.
“Nothing like having an inexperienced team open with three conference games on the road,” Boehler said.