ELKHART — Just two years ago, Elkhart Memorial put what would wind up one of the greatest teams in Elkhart County boys high school basketball history out on the court.
And even a year ago, the largely depleted Crimson Chargers, while they knew they’d slip as a club, put the player who would decisively wind up the Elkhart County scoring champion out on the court.
So, what’s this program that averaged 17 wins in the four-year window leading into last winter offering us this winter?
“Right now, this could be a tough year, one we could struggle,” coach Mark Barnhizer says.
“We have had two or three really good teams the last few years (including a pair of regional finalists or further),” Barnhizer acknowledges, “and probably enough good players that people might think, ‘Oh, they must have all this talent, they’ll be fine,’ but it was a couple groups that really knew how to compete, knew how to play and had some talent. This group is going to have to battle and fight for everything, but that’s OK; that’s the way it should be.”
Markese McGuire, who was a third-option Division I prospect on that 24-2 machine of 2011-12, then averaged 23.2 points for an 8-13 squad last season, is now gone to Illinois-Chicago.
On the plus side, the Chargers do boast more experience collectively than they had entering last season.
Dimitri Giger, a smooth forward who averaged 6.8 points to go with team-leading figures of 5.7 rebounds and 1.2 blocks as a sophomore starter a year ago, is back. So are Freddie Rhodes and Michael O’Toole, who combined for 18 starts, and Cameron Maxwell, who’s a junior but in his third varsity season.
Memorial opens Tuesday, Dec. 3, with a first-ever visit to Elkhart Christian (the second meeting between those teams overall), then hosts Elkhart Central Friday in the annual John Longfellow Trophy showdown.
Q&A WITH MEMORIAL COACH MARK BARNHIZER
Q: Who are the players projected to start or play regular minutes, and what do they bring to the mix?
A: “Dimitri (Giger) and Cameron (Maxwell) are returning players who will be starters. Freddie (Rhodes) will be out there. After that, there’s some positions open. (Michael) O’Toole started some last year, but I wouldn’t say he’s solidified. I’d say we have seven or eight guys who have a chance. Jon Bailey’s a sophomore who’s played some for us. A.J. Gary’s a sophomore, Darius Baker’s a junior, and then Chris Kale, a move-in who played on Plainfield’s JV last year. Dimitri’s got a chance to be a really good player. He has a lot of natural abilities, can run, jump, moves well, a lot of the tools it takes to be a really good player. It depends how much time he continues to put in, and I do think he had a pretty good summer. I didn’t think Cameron had a very good year for himself last year, but he started out (hurt). He’s primed for maybe a better year. He’s stronger than last year and more comfortable. Freddie (who missed the first half of last season with a broken wrist) is giving us some leadership, being a little more vocal than in the past, which is a good thing, because he’s going to be the one playing the most out of our senior group, and we need somebody to step up that way.”
Q: You’ve had some really strong No. 1 options over the years and are willing to feature one player. Do you have that kind of player this season?
A: “I don’t think anybody will have as much weight on them as a pure shooter as Markese (McGuire) last year, but I hope Giger is going to step up and be that guy who might lead us. We don’t need him forcing stuff, but he might be able to get 20 and stay in the flow. He is our only guy who’s ever played major minutes every night, so he may have to carry us a little bit with his leadership and ability to score underneath. His big thing is staying out of foul trouble. We’ve got to keep him from getting out of position.”
Q: What are some of the things that will have to happen for this team to maybe surprise people?
A: “We’re going to have to improve our rebounding and ability to block people out. This is a little team. Dimitri is 6-4, but the next guy is 6-2 or 6-3. We might have to start three guys under 6-foot, and I see all these other teams with a couple 6-7s on their roster. We’ll have to get the loose balls, get the first rebound. It’s going to be a long season if we’re giving second shots. We’ll lose some games, maybe take some thumpings, but we should be able to learn from it and play well before the season’s over.”
No. Name Pos. Ht. Yr.
3 Freddie Rhodes G 6-0 Sr.
4 Dimitri Giger F 6-4 Jr.
10 Cam Maxwell F 5-11 Jr.
12 Austin Miller G 6-0 Sr.
14 Tyler Rose G 5-11 Sr.
20 Deante Dalton G 5-8 So.
22 A.J. Gary G 5-9 So.
24 Mikal McGuire F 6-2 Jr.
30 Jon Bailey G/F 6-0 So.
32 Rashad Murphy F 6-1 Sr.
34 Michael O’Toole F/C 6-2 So.
40 Darrius Baker G 5-7 Jr.
42 Chris Kale F 6-2 Jr.
44 Izayah Newsom C 6-3 Jr.
Coach: Mark Barnhizer (376-266 in 29 seasons overall; 95-62 in 7 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, Kyle Sears, Vernell Wilson.
3 — at Elkhart Christian. 6 — Elkhart Central. 13 — at LaPorte. 20 — Concord (c). 21 — at Valparaiso. 27 — vs. Marian at Mishawaka in NIC/NLC Shootout. 28 — home to Mishawaka in NIC/NLC Shootout.
4 — Hobart. 10 — Plymouth (c). 11 — at Penn. 15 — Mishawaka. 17 — at Wawasee (c). 25 — at Northridge (c). 31 — Goshen (c). February
4 — SB Riley. 7 — Warsaw (c). 13 — at NorthWood (c). 18 — at SB St. Joseph. 25 — at SB Clay. 28 — MC Marquette.
(c) — Denotes Northern Lakes Conference games.
MEMORIAL RETURNING LEADERS
Points: Dimitri Giger 6.8, Freddie Rhodes 6.6, Cameron Maxwell 4.3.
Rebounds: Giger 5.7*, Rhodes 3.5, Michael O’Toole 1.4.
Assists: Maxwell 1.0, Giger 0.8.
Steals: Rhodes 1.5, Giger 1.0.
* — Denotes also led last season’s team overall.