ELKHART — The Elkhart Central Blue Blazers have “kind of flipped the coin,” according to coach Troy Noble, when it comes to where they’re placing their emphasis.
Now if the Blazers can just flip the record.
Central finished 6-15 in 2012-13, its seventh losing season in the last eight years.
Noble, though, was in just his first year aboard, and there was another one of those law-of-average-defying sets of close losses that have seemed to gravitate toward the Blazer program over those last eight years.
This latest set was staggering, an early-season, eight-game skid in which the defeats came by a combined 24 points, only one of them by more than four points.
“Last year, we were so hard on the kids defensively,” Noble says, “and this year we’ve kind of flipped the coin to offense. We think our defense can get to where it needs to be, but offensively, I think you’re going to see a much different Elkhart Central team. Our problem last year was an inability to put the ball in the basket. We have put in a tremendous amount of work on dribble, pass and shoot, and our skills have improved tremendously there.”
Noble is encouraged even with the Blazers graduating their top two scorers from a year ago in Terell Street and Blake Brouwer.
Returnees who played regularly last winter include Jaron Walters, Tre Taylor and Genoris Crawford, who has been slowed by an ankle injury. A handful of other returning individuals also saw varsity time a year ago, and Noble calls his club’s depth a potential strength.
Per tradition, Central opens on Thanksgiving eve when potential Class 4A Elkhart Sectional opponent Northridge visits North Side Gym.
Q&A WITH ELKHART CENTRAL COACH TROY NOBLE
Q: Who are some of the players in the mix for minutes, and what do they bring?
A: “Starting with some of the seniors, we think Tre Taylor is, if not the best, one of the very elite defenders in Northern Indiana. He can guard multiple positions. Derald Gray, his strength will be his rebounding and his physicality inside of 5 feet. Jaron (Walters) is as tough a competitor as there is around. Genoris Crawford, once he’s back (from an ankle injury), is a team-oriented player who can get shots for others and is a good defender. Then we’ve got three sophomores and a couple juniors who have improved their skill sets and I think they’ll be ready to contribute. Really, we’ve got about 10 guys who are pretty similar in their skill sets. Last year, we were kind of pigeon-holed by some guys who could only play one position, but this year I see a lot of guys who can do a multitude of things.”
Q: How much easier is year two than year one for a basketball coach and his team?
A: “As a staff, we’re finding year two is much easier. Kids are reaching the level of expectation sooner and are more consistent in picking things up.”
Q: In 2012, you came aboard in mid-June and there was some catch-up involved. How did this summer go?
A: “We had a great summer. We went 19-and-11 and our losses were close ones, but summer basketball is still very different from the season. You see people losing that won in the summer, so we’ve got to keep working hard.”
Q: What pace are you projecting offensively, and are you going to play any zone defensively?
A: “We want to play faster. We played in the 40s and low 50s a lot last year because we didn’t have a team of basketball players. This year we have basketball players who can get to the rim, have a mid-range game and have a 3-point game. We won’t play any zone. I don’t believe in it. We need to get kids out guarding and putting on more full-court pressure, and we’ve got to be able to use our depth. We want to get eight, nine or 10 players in there, force the other team to make adjustments.”
ELKHART CENTRAL ROSTER
No. Name Pos. Ht. Yr.
1 Antwaan Allen G 6-0 So.
3 LangstonJohnsn G 5-9 So.
10 Genoris Crawford G 5-9 Sr.
11 Treyton Harris G 6-3 Jr.
12 Aaron Flax F 6-3 Jr.
13 Jaron Walters F 6-2 Sr.
20 Cornell Conner C 6-3 Fr.
21 Tre Taylor G 6-1 Sr.
23 Clinton Parker G 5-11 So.
30 Shaneal Mackey F 6-0 Sr.
31 Isaiah Coatie F 5-11 Jr.
32 Derald Gray C 6-4 Sr.
33 Josh Swanson F 6-0 Sr.
Coach: Troy Noble (23-45 in 3 seasons overall; 6-15 in 1 season at Central; 5-17 in 1 season at Tell City; 12-13 in 1 season at Illini West, Carthage, Ill.).
Assistants: Scott Sekal, Scott Sassaman, Jordan Bowerman, Keidrick Stout.
ELKHART CENTRAL SCHEDULE
27 — Northridge.
6 — at Elkhart Memorial (North Side Gym). 7 — at Goshen. 13 — at SB Riley (c). 14 — Edwardsburg. 20 — at Michigan City. 27 — Indianapolis Arlington.
10 — at SB Adams (c). 14 — at Warsaw. 17 — Mishawaka (c). 18 — Wawasee. 21 — at Concord. 24 — Marian (c). 31 — at Penn (c).
1 — Jimtown. 7 — at SB Washington (c). 13 — SB Clay (c). 21 — SB St. Joseph (c). 25 — Elkhart Christian. 28 — at LaPorte.
(c) — Denotes Northern Indiana Conference games.
ELKHART CENTRAL RETURNING LEADERS
Points: Jaron Walters 6.3, Tre Taylor 5.3, Genoris Crawford 3.2.
Rebounds: Walters 3.9, Taylor 2.7.
Assists: Crawford 2.1, Taylor 1.2.