North basketball players not as familiar this year

Tribune-Star/Austen Leake From distance: Terre Haute North senior Dalton Sturm puts up a shot during the Patriots’ scrimmage against the South Vermillion Wildcats last Friday in Clinton.

Familiarity was never a problem for Terre Haute North in boys high school basketball last season.

Coach Todd Woelfle's Patriots began the season with 10 seniors (and finished with nine) who used their cohesion and experience to overcome a slow start and win a First Financial Wabash Valley Classic championship on their way to a 12-14 record.

This year is pretty much the opposite.

The nine graduated Patriots had varying amounts of playing time that left very little for younger players. Back this year with varsity experience are 6-foot-4 senior Dalton Sturm, who had some starts, was a consistent member of the rotation and had some fourth-quarter heroics on occasion; 6-3 junior Matt Gauer, whose shooting ability earned him some rotation time; and 6-2 junior Mahki Johnson, who earned his playing time with defense and rebounding.

"We're a young basketball team, with not much experience at the varsity level," Woelfle said recently, "but we have a good group of young players. The coaching staff is excited about the improvement we've seen and will continue to see throughout the season."

So if watching a North game last year had a certain comfort level as far as personnel was concerned, Patriot fans are likely to go into games this season wondering what new heroes might pop up.

The current varsity roster includes 6-2 junior Ethan Knott, the all-state tennis player who got a few varsity minutes last year; the trio of miniature JV point guards a year ago (5-9 juniors Cody Bunch and Caden Mason and 5-8 sophomore Nolan White) who have grown into varsity size and strength; two more juniors, 6-1 Dylan Ingle and 5-11 Noah Crossley; 6-4 sophomore Mark Hankins; and 6-0 freshman Bryson Carpenter.

Gauer and Johnson have worked their way back from football injuries and should be available for Wednesday night's home opener against Mooresville, but White may need a longer recuperation period from a cross country injury.

That will leave a spot or two available for more of the younger players, and Woelfle noted recently that player movement between the varsity and junior varsity — with Sturm the lone senior — is likely to happen fairly often until roles are established.

Which, the coach said, is a good thing.

"We have a good freshman and sophomore class," Woelfle said, "so the future should be pretty good."

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