BENTON — Fairfield’s all set to go this boys high school basketball season, and the operative word there is “all.”
Each of third-year coach Troy Beachy’s first two Falcon camps happened to begin with potentially key returning players instead not returning for assorted reasons.
“It’s nice that we’ve basically got everyone back (among non-graduates), and a couple new faces that came out,” Beachy says. “That’s a change. We’ve got that continuity going now. We’ve got players who want to be here and want to improve.”
In Marcus Rodes, Joe Line, Josh Stephens and Mitch Dewitt, the Falcons return the individuals who ranked third through sixth in both scoring and minutes last season, and among that quartet, only Rodes is a senior now.
He averaged 9.0 points in 2012-13 and Line averaged 8.3. Stephens added 5.7 per contest and Dewitt, as a freshman, led the club in steals at 1.4.
Fairfield, now entering its third season in Class 3A, finished 11-12 last winter, 7-3 in the Northeast Corner Conference, both of those being jumps from 8-13 and 6-4 the previous season.
“I sure hope so,” Beachy says of whether his program is in a clearly progressive mode. “I think we made some progress last year, but I think we left some (wins) out there, too. We can get better.”
The Falcons open Tuesday, Nov. 26, by hosting Wawasee. The Warriors have won 12 of the last 13 meetings, including taking season-openers by at least 14 points each of the last three years.
Q&A WITH FAIRFIELD COACH TROY BEACHY
Q: Who are those in the mix to start or play regular minutes, and what do they each bring?
A: “That starts with Marcus Rodes and Joseph Line at the 2 and 3 spots. They’ll be out there as starters, along with Mitch Dewitt. He played some point guard as a freshman, and we kept reminding him, ‘This will make you better the next three years.’ I’d say the other two spots are pretty open. We’ve got Josh Stephens, a kid who started in the sectional and is a great outside shooter. He’s still developing the rest of his game. Brock Goeglein is a sophomore who played some as a freshman and is in the mix. Kegan Showalter had a great summer, and provides defense and toughness. And then Clay Bontrager and Thomas Martin. Those are probably our top eight right now.”
Q: You still have a relatively young team. Who else could emerge?
A: “We’ve got two players, a junior and sophomore, who did not play last year, but could help us as they get their feet under them. Nathan Azzarito’s a real athletic kid. He’s still learning as far as understanding organized basketball, but has made strides lately. And Graham Morris, he’s more of a post player, a real strong kid. Once he learns the plays and gets involved, he could help us. We’ve also got John Stack. He’s a senior who should provide some energy off the bench. And Sam Brown’s a sophomore, 6-3, who had a great second half on the JV last year. We’ve got a lot of guys, which has helped the competition level in practice.”
Q: What are the changes in store for this season, if any?
A: “I’m trying not to add a lot of new wrinkles. Going from year two to year three, we’re trying to make some things more about knowing and reacting than learning. We’ve been doing this a couple years, so no huge wrinkles. If anything, we’re simplifying.”
Q: What are some of your concerns?
A: We need to rebound the ball better and take care of the ball better. Every coach can say that, but those two are very true for us. We need to take the next step in taking care of the basketball (after averaging 16.7 turnovers a year ago). We’re stressing our ball-handling and our passing daily. We want to be better defensively, and more physical offensively. We don’t have that guy who’s going to score 22 points a game, so we have to spread it around. And we’re just trying to develop that tough mentality. We want toughness out of the guys and a consistent effort at the defensive end.”
No. Name Pos. Ht. Yr.
10 Mitch Dewitt G 5-10 So.
12 John Stack G 5-7 Sr.
14 Josh Stephens G 5-9 Jr.
20 Marcus Rodes F 6-3 Sr.
21 Brock Goeglein F 6-2 So.
22 Sam Brown C 6-3 So.
23 Clay Bontrager F 6-3 Jr.
24 Graham Morris C 6-1 So.
30 Kegan Showalter F 6-0 Jr.
31 Joe Line F 6-2 Jr.
32 Thomas Martin C 6-1 Sr.
33 Nathan Azzarito F 6-2 Jr.
Coach: Troy Beachy (19-25 in two seasons, both at Fairfield).
Assistants: Dave Hamilton, Jeff Ulrich, Patrick Thompson, Gordon Mosson.
26 — Wawasee.
6 — at Prairie Heights (c). 10 — Lakeland (c). 14 — at NorthWood 20 — at Hamilton (c) 21 — at Goshen.
3 — Holiday Tourney (vs. Rochester at Rochester). 4 — Holiday Tourney (vs. NorthWood or Tippecanoe Valley in consolation or championship at NorthWood). 11 — Eastside (c). 14-18 — NECC Tournament. 24 — Westview (c). 31 — West Noble (c). February
1 — at Northridge. 8 — Elkhart Christian. 13 — at Fremont (c). 15 — Angola (c). 21 — at Churubusco (c). 25 — Jimtown. 28 — Central Noble (c).
(c) — Denotes Northeast Corner Conference games.
FAIRFIELD RETURNING LEADERS
Points: Marcus Rodes 9.0, Joe Line 8.3, Josh Stephens 5.7.
Rebounds: Rodes 3.1, Line 2.5.
Assists: Line 2.0*, Rodes 2.0.
Steals: Dewitt 1.4*, Rodes 1.1.
* — Denotes also led last season’s team overall.