ELKHART — No pair of teammates in IHSAA Elkhart County boys basketball history has scored as many points through their sophomore seasons as Elkhart Christian forwards Cory Waycaster and Ryan Kupferschmid, but half that pair is banged up right now.
And no trio of sophomores in county history has scored as many points as Waycaster, Kupferschmid and Kenny Bearss did last season, but two-thirds of that trio is banged up right now.
The good news for the Eagles as a promising season approaches is that Waycaster and Bearss aren’t sidelined altogether and aren’t necessarily far from being 100 percent.
Waycaster, unable to work on his game over the summer as he rehabbed a muscle tear near his knee that’s believed to have occurred early last season, according to coach Ryan Culp, was recently released to begin practicing with some limits.
Culp’s hoping the junior forward will be at “maybe 85 or 90” percent effectiveness when ECA opens its season next Tuesday at North Side Gym against first-time opponent Memorial.
Bearss, the Eagles’ shifty point guard, is nursing a hip flexor strain, according to Culp, but should be ready to go barring another setback.
ECA finished 13-8 last winter, exactly matching its best mark over the eight seasons that it’s been a full-fledged IHSAA member.
And in Kupferschmid (16.9 points and an area-leading 8.7 rebounds per game last season), Waycaster (14.0 points), Bearss (9.2 points) and Tyler VanArsdale (4.5 points, 5.1 boards), the Eagles return four starters from that team.
“We have a chance to become pretty good,” Culp says, “but we also have to understand that there has to continue to be growth for that to happen.”
Discuss the three players who started for you last season as sophomores.
“Ryan Kupferschmid has gotten bigger and stronger. He worked extremely hard in the offseason in the weight room, but he’s continued to keep his flexibility and his shot along with that growth. We not only look for him to be a top scorer around the basket, but he’ll again be on the perimeter at times. He’ll play a couple inches taller than he is just because of his muscle and smarts and knack for the ball, and will sacrifice his body and do about anything to help us win. Cory (Waycaster) is still healing from that quad injury. My understanding is it’s a muscle-related thing that you can’t really operate on and that can be nagging, can take anywhere from one to three years to truly heal, but we’ll see. He’s an explosive player when healthy, but he really wasn’t able to work on his game much over the summer with the rehabilitation. We’ll watch and monitor him, but he’s been getting closer to being able to go 100 percent. Kenny (Bearss) is nursing a little bit of a hip flexor strain, something he’s dealt with since the spring, but he’s going as strong as he can in practice. He did a fantastic job growing into his role as point guard last year and now he has that experience. He has a high basketball IQ and will make good decisions for us.”
Who are the other candidates to start or play regularly?
“Tyler VanArsdale’s back at center for us. He’s not real tall, but uses his body well. He’s another player who can play a little bigger than he is with his positioning for rebounds. He’s one of our (three) seniors and is playing a big role as a leader. He’ll be an integral part of what we do this year. Tanner Watson came in part way through last year and was able to be a perimeter shooter for us, but can also be pretty good around the basket. He and Jack Walters are much the same in that they can contribute both ways. One of them will probably fill that fifth (starting) spot and the other will play as well. And there are about five other guys we’re watching closely to see how they can help us.”
What are some things that are being changed from a year ago?
“Defensively, we’ll possibly mix things up more. We played a lot of man the first half of last season, then went more zone in the second half, but we’ll try to keep teams guessing more within the game. We’re faster and bigger, so I think we also have to look for opportunities to score in transition more than in the past. We’re also working on an offense that gives the coaches more control, but still gives the players freedoms and options within that offense.”
The last couple seasons have created excitement for the next couple. How do you view that?
“Hopefully, everybody’s focused on this year. We have some seniors who will lead us very well, and they only have one year left, but, yes, there is an excitement. We have a goal of winning that (first) sectional (in school history), and when we get to the tournament, that will be a focus, but we have to understand that we have to have growth during the season to help make that vision come true. I think we’ve made some noise for a smaller school, but we’ve added some bigger schools to our schedule, and we also have to recognize that we might have our opponents’ attention more than in the past.”
Elkhart Christian boys basketball
By the numbers
Combined career points for Cory Waycaster (571) and Ryan Kupferschmid (479), easily the most ever by a pair of Elkhart County classmates through their sophomore seasons. The previous mark was 918 by twin brothers Ross (521) and Rex (397) Krider for Middlebury in the 1954-55 and ’55-56 seasons.
Combined points by Kupferschmid (355), Waycaster (295) and Kenny Bearss (157) last season, most ever for an Elkhart County sophomore trio, bettering the 767 by Ross Krider (338), Rex Krider (235) and Wayne Lambright (194) for 18-7 Middlebury in 1955-56.
No. Player Pos. Ht. Yr.
3 Kenny Bearss G 5-11 Jr.
10 Michael Craft G 5-11 Jr.
12 Austin Buckles C 6-5 Sr.
20 Jude Allen F 6-4 So.
22 Ryan Kupferschmid F 6-2 Jr.
23 Cory Waycaster F 6-4 Jr.
24 Tanner Watson F 6-2 Jr.
30 Jack Walters F 6-1 Sr.
32 Steve Weaver G 6-0 So.
40 Tyler VanArsdale C 6-3 Sr.
44 Jon Anderson C 6-3 Jr.
Coach: Ryan Culp (139-101 in 11 seasons overall; 21-20 in 2 seasons at Elkhart Christian; 118-81 in 9 seasons at Concord).
Assistants: Troy Eichelberger, Dan Bearss, Drew Richey, Jed Long.
27 — at Memorial (North Side Gym). 30 — at Hamilton.
4 — Prairie Heights. 7 — at New Prairie. 15 — Bethany Christian Holiday Tournament (vs. Lakeland Christian, 10 a.m., followed by Bethany vs. SB Trinity; consolation 4 p.m.; championship 7:30 p.m.).
3 — at Triton. 4 — at Lakeland Christian. 8 — SB St. Joseph. 12 — Oregon-Davis. 15 — at Culver Academy. 19 — at Howe. 22 — Bremen. 26 — Lakewood Park. 29 — Jimtown.
1 — Bethany Christian. 8 — at SB Trinity. 16 — at Argos. 19 — Central. 22 — at FW Canterbury.
Points: Ryan Kupferschmid 16.9*, Cory Waycaster 14.0, Kenny Bearss 9.2, Tyler VanArsdale 4.5.
Rebounds: Kupferschmid 8.7*, VanArsdale 5.1, Waycaster 4.1.
Assists: Waycaster 2.2*, Bearss 2.2, VanArsdale 1.1.
Steals: Bearss 2.1*, Waycaster 1.7, Kupferschmid 1.1.
* — Denotes also led last season’s team overall.