ELKHART — The last thing that the area team smacked hardest by graduation needs is to be the one smacked hardest by injuries.
Right now, though, Memorial may be both.
The Crimson Chargers — who are coming off the most accomplished winter in program history, as well as one of the most accomplished in area history — have lost junior Freddie Rhodes until possibly February with the broken wrist he recently suffered in practice, and are without their tallest player, 6-foot-4 senior Evan Andersen, indefinitely while he recovers from a sprained ankle. There’s also promising sophomore Cameron Maxwell, who lost much of his summer preparation to a major injury. He’s back, but not 100 percent yet.
“No excuses. It’s time to play,” Memorial coach Mark Barnhizer says. “I really don’t think we’re going to find anybody feeling sorry for us.”
Not after last season, anyway. The Chargers went 24-2, posted an average victory margin of 16 points and came within a couple buckets of playing for a Class 4A state title, falling 62-59 to eventual champion Carmel.
Graduation has grabbed four-fifths of the storied starting five, taking All-Area first-teamers Todd Johnson and Urston Smith, along with Evan Weaver and Jyrron Cooper, while leaving All-Area first-teamer and University of Illinois-Chicago recruit Markese McGuire. The silky smooth McGuire averaged 15.2 points last season.
“I’m very aware we’re going to lose some, probably more than we want,” says Barnhizer, who is 87-49 in six seasons at Memorial, “but this is a year that’s going to be more about where we’re heading that matters. At the same time, we’re not ever going to lose sight that winning matters. If we do that, there’s really no point in playing.”
Memorial opens Tuesday at North Side Gym with a first-ever meeting against Elkhart Christian.
Charger coach Mark Barnhizer’s take ...
Memorial boys basketball
Talk about your one returning starter, Markese McGuire. Will he be the basketball epitome of a marked man?
“I think Markese is better than last year. He’s older and stronger and more experienced. Our team is built around Markese McGuire. I think he’s going to be the one constant for us. We need to have some pieces come along to help him, but we’re young and inexperienced, and he’s as good a player as there is in the area, so if I was coaching against us, yeah, I would focus on him. He’s not really experienced that in high school before. I was kind of in that position my junior year and it can get frustrating seeing two (defenders) everywhere you turn, but I think he’s up to the challenge.”
Who else will start or play major minutes, and what do they bring?
“James (Hershberger) will start for sure. I think he’ll have a good year. I think he’s better and more confident. When you’re up against (since-graduated Todd Johnson) every day in practice and getting beaten down, you may not think you’re as good as you are, but now I think going against Todd every day will help him. I think he’s ready. After that, we’ve got seven or eight kids battling for playing time. That includes the rest of the senior class, it includes Cameron Maxwell and Dimitri Giger, two sophomores who will see action, and it might include a couple freshmen. Freddie Rhodes certainly would’ve been in there if he hadn’t gotten hurt, but we’ve been told to not expect him before February 1st.”
How will you be different in style from a year ago?
“We’d still like to play the way kids like to play modern basketball, and that’s dribble up the floor fast, find the open man and shoot. If that happens, great, but we may have to look at a different style. Defensively, we’re going to have to adjust some things. If Evan (Andersen, nursing a sprained ankle) is going to be out for a while, we might quite possibly be the smallest 4A school in the state height-wise, and we’re not very big with him.”
Though it’s a different team now, are there residuals from a season as extraordinary as the last one?
“We hope there are. James and especially Markese have been through the wars so to speak. The flip side of it is there are a lot of people who got their butts beat by us last year, and they won’t necessarily care that Todd and Urston and those guys aren’t there as much as they’ll see ‘Memorial’ on the shirt. We’d like to be in a position where we groomed the returning players a little more, but those seniors last year were so good they had to play. The residual of that is we have a very inexperienced team. As coaches, we have to understand that.”
By the numbers
The Crimson Chargers’ record over the last season and a half — with three of those losses by three points or less.
Combined consecutive career starts for the now-graduated quartet of Todd Johnson (83), Urston Smith (71), Evan Weaver (47) and Jyrron Cooper (26). Markese McGuire is Memorial’s lone returning player with significant varsity experience.
No. Player Pos. Ht. Yr.
3 Freddie Rhodes G 5-11 Jr.
4 Dimitri Giger F 6-3 So.
10 Cameron Maxwell G 5-10 So.
12 Austin Miller G 5-11 Jr.
14 James Hershberger G 5-11 Sr.
20 Darrius Baker G 5-6 So.
22 Jaylin Rhodes F 5-9 So.
24 Spenser Gilbert F 6-0 Sr.
30 Jon Bailey F 6-0 Fr.
32 Michael O’Toole F 6-2 Fr.
34 Markese McGuire G 6-2 Sr.
44 Darien Williams F 6-0 Sr.
50 Evan Andersen C 6-4 Sr.
Coach: Mark Barnhizer (368-253 in 28 seasons overall; 87-49 in 6 seasons at Memorial; 128-78 in 9 seasons at Perry Meridian; 112-62 in 8 seasons at Eastern of Bloomfield; 7-14 in 1 season at Cloverdale; 22-41 in 3 seasons at Westfield; 12-9 in 1 season at Locust Fork, Ala.).
Assistants: Jerel Jackson, Jeff Blair, Kyle Sears, Ryan Wixon.
27 — Elkhart Christian. 30 — at Central (North Side Gym).
7 — Culver Academy. 11 — SB St. Joseph. 14 — at Concord (c). 20 — at Hobart. 28 — vs. Mishawaka at Marian in NIC/NLC Shootout. 29 — vs. Marian at Concord in NIC/NLC Shootout.
4 — at Plymouth (c). 5 — Penn. 9 — at Mishawaka. 11 — Wawasee (c). 19 — Northridge (c). 25 — at Goshen (c). 29 — at SB Riley.
1 — at Warsaw (c). 7 — NorthWood (c). 12 — at SB Adams. 19 — SB Clay. 22 — at Michigan City Marquette.
(c) — Denotes Northern Lakes Conference game.
Points: Markese McGuire 15.2, James Hershberger 1.8.
Rebounds: McGuire 3.8, Hershberger 1.0.
Assists: McGuire 1.7, Hershberger 0.8.
Steals: McGuire 1.0, Hershberger 0.5.