Nov. 16—From the outside, it looks like Taylor's boys basketball team is rebuilding. On the inside, the Titans hope they're reloading.
Taylor takes the court minus its top four scorers from last season. One was Baris Moore, who transferred to Kokomo. The rest were seniors, part of a productive five-member class that all played and made up more than half of the rotation.
Several players who saw action last season return, with a lot more on their shoulders.
"I think we're a good team. I think we're going to be a good team," Taylor coach Bob Wonnell said. "We're young and talented.
"Javionne Harris, Drey McClatchey, Connor Binnion, Keyshawn Galloway ... those guys are studs. They're going to be some of the best guards in the area."
Those four are the initial cornerstone of the squad. Binnion is a 6-foot-3 junior guard. Galloway is a 6-1 freshman point guard. McClatchey is a 6-2 sophomore guard. And Harris is a 6-4 sophomore guard/forward.
McClatchey played in all 25 games last season. He averaged 4.5 points and 2 rebounds. Harris averaged 3.8 points and 5.2 rebounds. Binnion averaged 4 points playing just six games at the end of the season after having limited eligibility for the bulk of the season following a transfer.
A move-in this season is 5-9 sophomore guard Christian Hall, a Howard County resident who had been at Indianapolis Tindley until enrolling at Taylor this school year. Taking inside roles are 6-1 junior forward Jalyn Wooten and 6-2 sophomore forward Jacob Trueblood.
Further options include a couple Kokomo transfers. Phillip Fort is a 6-1 forward in his first season of organized basketball as a senior and Jamael Cosley is a 6-5 sophomore. Cosley may be eligible to play later in the season if his transfer is finalized.
Taylor opened 12-0 last season and finished 19-6, which marked the Titans' best season in more than 20 years. Wonnell envisions the same kind of playing style this season, even if the players in the rotation didn't all get a lot of court time last season.
"We'll be like we have been the last couple years," Wonnell said. "We're going to be an aggressive defensive team that tries to get up in your shorts and play good man-to-man defense. We'll press. We want to play fast-paced. They're unselfish. They play hard and they play together and that is becoming part of our culture.
"By the time we get to the end of the season, every pass we make will be to someone that can do something with it, and that's hard to guard."
Wonnell was happy with the work the Titans got in over the summer, learning the speed and intensity of varsity play, defining roles and learning how the Titans are expected to play. That included the strengths above, and the things they have to compensate for.
"We've got no size. Last year I thought we were a pretty big team, especially for our class," Wonnell said.
This season, even the taller players aren't post-style players, so this team will have to make up for that.
"We're going to have to be a competitive group. All of our guards are going to have to want to rebound on the defensive end."
Even if experience is lacking, Wonnell believes this Titan team has the talent to keep being a threat. The Titans were 7-1 in the Hoosier Heartland Conference last year, losing only to champion Carroll. In the postseason, they reached a Class 2A sectional final before falling to Tipton — which returns nearly its entire sectional title team this season.
"I want to be good," he said. "Where we are now as a program, here in year three [of my tenure], our goal is to win our conference and win our sectional every year. We feel like we're in that spot, beating the likes of the Carrolls and Clinton Prairies [in the HHC]. In our sectional, shoot, there's Tipton — Tipton's as good as anybody in the state. Don't take it that way that we're going to beat everybody, but in our locker rom we know we can play with anybody.
"There wasn't a game in our schedule last year that we couldn't have won. I don't think there's one of them that we didn't have a lead in the fourth quarter," Wonnell said. He acknowledged that last year's team had five seniors that led that charge, but without them the new Titans still feel capable. "That's how we feel now. We feel like we're a really good basketball team and you better be ready to play when we come into your gym."