A clean slate from top to bottom is what Lincoln Trail College's men's basketball team will have for the 2012-13 season.
Following a season of turmoil that included a mid-season coaching change as well as a disappointing record on the court, the Statesmen have an entirely new cast of players to take the court this season for head coach Mike Ray.
Ray took over as interim coach in the middle of last season and was given the job on a permanent basis following the season.
There are 17 players on the roster this season, none of which played a minute for the Statesmen last season. Only one of those players - redshirt freshman Jacob Weaver (Rockville, Ind.) - was even on the roster. Included in the group is 13 true freshmen, three redshirt freshmen and one sophomore.
"We're young, but very enthused," Ray said. "The three words I would use to describe this team are youth, youth and youth. But, we are excited about our work ethic and the commitment to play. This is a group that is seeking daily improvement."
With such a young group, progress will be slow, but Ray believes this group can definitely progress into a solid basketball team.
"We have got a lot of work to do, but I think these kids have the heart and talent to get the results we are looking for," Ray said. "The more they play together and trust each other, the better they will become."
As for the players he has brought in, Ray believes he has a good mix of talent and is balanced at all positions.
"I think we have a good blend, but again, this is going to take time," Ray said.
The Statesmen are probably deepest at point guard, where they have several players competing for time.
"Dennis Hightower (6-0 Fr. Danville) has really stepped up and Daryll Walker (6-2 So. Indianapolis, Ind.) is the most athletic kid on the team with his strength and quickness," Ray said. "Jacob Weaver (5-11 RS Fr. Rockville, Ind.) has a real good understanding of the game and Jordan Houser (5-9 Fr. Terre Haute, Ind.) does as well. They are all competing at a high level, challenging each other every day and making each other better."
They are also in good shape on the wings with several shooters, as well as a few players that can play inside and out.
"Caleb Begle (6-3 Fr. Jasper, Ind.) is a prolific shooter, Ronnie Dietz (6-2 Fr. Indianapolis, Ind.) shoots the ball well and Jake Newton (6-6 RS Fr. Terre Haute, Ind.) is solid all the way around," Ray said. "Austin Callahan (6-5 Fr. Hutsonville) can go inside and out. He is a tough kid and a competitor. If he can dedicate himself to getting his shots in every day, he can be a good player for us. Jacob Duncan (6-0 Fr. Marshall) is one of our stronger players, can shoot and is very good defensively."
Ray is also excited about the prospects of his inside players, but they are a work in progress.
"Nick Painter (6-6 Fr. Flora) is very athletic and perhaps our best overall basketball player, but he just has to get stronger," Ray said. "We knew Jesse Tesmer (6-8 Fr. Greencastle, Ind.) was good, but he is even better than we thought. He is probably our most-improved player. Adam Hendrix (6-8 Fr. Ratcliff, Ky.) is our strongest post player and a hard worker, but needs to get in better shape. John Bootz (7-0 Fr. Bowling Green, Ky.) is skilled, but has to get stronger and Lawrence Smith (6-7 Fr. Hopkinsville, Ky.) is getting better every day."
Right now, his players' willingness to play together is their biggest strength, while there are several things they need to improve on, especially on the defensive end.
"This is a team that individually is okay, but much better collectively," Ray said. "We have a lot of players that make others better, share the ball and understand shot selection. Our biggest deficiency is defense, namely transition defense, matching up and keeping the ball in front of you. We have got to run back defensively and we will demand that out of our players, because there is no excuse not to. We have to do a better job keeping the ball in front of us and sliding our feet. I feel like we can get better in those areas, we just have to drill, drill, drill. But, the kids have done a good job absorbing what we are teaching them so far."
Teaching is a big part of the process with a young group and Ray believes his team is picking things up well so far.
"This a fun group to coach and they are real receptive to listening," Ray said. "How well we understand those lessons and carry them out will dictate how we are on the court. We have to have that drive every day to get better. If we do that, we are going to be successful."
Making the program successful is more about the players and coaches, according to Ray.
"Obviously, I want to put my stamp on the program, but this is more of a community project," Ray said. "Our three selling points are that the faculty and staff here want the kids to progress and earn degrees, the living conditions are outstanding and we offer a sound program that can get them to the next level. Most importantly, we want kids that want to be here and be a Statesman."
On the court, Ray believes there are three areas that will determine how successful the Statesmen will be - minimizing turnovers, shot selection and attacking the glass. However, the biggest thing Ray wants to see from his team is steady improvement every day.
"If we do those things, I think we can be successful, but our assessment of the team is going to be based on daily improvement," Ray said. "We want them to work hard and have fun and if they do that, I like our chances."
Lincoln Trail opens the season Thursday at Parkland College at 7 p.m. The opener is the start of a three-game road trip to begin the season for the Statesmen, who will also play at Illinois Central Saturday and then at Danville Area College Nov. 13. The first home game for the Statesmen is Nov. 17 against Parkland at 6 p.m.
Lincoln Trail College 2012-13 Men's Basketball Roster
No. Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Yr. Hometown
0 Lawrence Smith F 6-7 210 Fr. Hopkinsville, Ky.
1 Jordan Houser PG 5-9 165 Fr. Terre Haute, Ind.
2 Daryll Walker G 6-2 200 So. Indianapolis, Ind.
5 Ronnie Dietz G 6-2 185 Fr. Indianapolis, Ind.
10 Jacob Weaver PG 5-11 170 Fr.(RS) Rockville, Ind.
11 Joe Byrd G 6-4 215 Fr. Bloomington, Ind.
12 Alex Baker G 5-10 170 Fr.(RS) Marengo, Ind.
13 Caleb Begle G 6-3 170 Fr. Jasper, Ind.
20 Austin Callahan F 6-5 215 Fr. Hutsonville, Ill.
21 Adam Hendrix PF 6-8 230 Fr. Ratcliff, Ky.
22 Jacob Duncan G 6-0 180 Fr. Marshall, Ill.
23 Dennis Hightower PG 6-0 185 Fr. Danville, Ill.
30 Nick Painter G/F 6-6 180 Fr. Flora, Ill.
32 Jake Newton G 6-6 190 Fr.(RS) Terre Haute, Ind.
40 Conner Wagner F 6-5 190 Fr. Lynnville, Ind.
44 John Bootz C 7-0 225 Fr. Bowling Green, Ky.
52 Jesse Tesmer C 6-8 240 Fr. Greencastle, Ind.
Head coach: Mike Ray
Assistant coaches: Zack Patterson, Vince Stennett, Mike Billingsly
2012-13 Lincoln Trail College Men's Basketball Schedule