Baldwin High School boys team deep with seniors
The Baldwin High School boys basketball players may be warriors this season, but not road warriors.
With three home tournaments, including the 4A sub-state, the team will only play seven games on the road, coach Dustin Leochner said.
“If we make in the sub-state finals, we could play 15 of 22 games at home,” he said. “We’re going to need new home uniforms next year.”
Leochner is looking ahead to the season with high expectations — tempered with the knowledge the team will have to work hard to realize its potential — and experiencing some early adversity.
The Bulldogs will start the season without senior point guard Chad Berg, who is out until after the holiday break with a hamstring injury he suffered late in the football season. Christian Gaylord, expected to provide a big inside presence, will miss the entire season with a shoulder injury.
“I think he was ready to have a dominant year,” Leochner said of Gaylord. “We just don’t have a true post player now. Very few teams do.”
Still, Leochner likes what he sees from a team that doesn’t lack experience or senior leadership. Among the senior returners are Michael Burton, Tim Craig, Luke Fursman, who blossomed as scoring threat and defensive stopper as a junior, Quinn Twombly and Cornell Brown.
The experience is evident in early practices as the team grasps drills and schemes after one run-through, Leochner said.
Every senior on the team won postseason football Frontier League honors, and Leochner said the physical strength they gained in the offseason weight room will also pay off on the court.
“That helps us with rebounding and finishing at the basket,” the coach said.
Another asset is team speed, which will be improved with Berg’s return, Leochner said.
The team is a bit rusty as a result of getting a late start with the football team’s playoff run, Leochner said. That shows up mostly in its shooting, but that, too, would benefit from Berg’s return, he said.
The Frontier League race will be much more competitive with the departure of Ottawa’s Semi Ojeleye to Duke University and the graduation of the other starters from last year’s 4A state championship team. Leochner said the Cyclones coach is also new.
Baldwin should be among the league’s best teams with Louisburg and Eudora, which added two quality transfers from Atchison to a team led by all-league performer Andrew Ballock, Leochner said. De Soto could also make noise in the league despite losing its inside players to graduation, he said.
The Bulldogs will start the season Friday at home against Jefferson County North. They play next week in the Bulldog/Wildcat Classic. In the tournament’s usual pool play format, the Bulldogs will open at 7:30 p.m. Monday against Chanute and play at the same time Wednesday against Iola. The team’s final opponent will be determined by how it fares in pool play.