Nov. 18—Tipton boys basketball coach Cliff Hawkins says his team has a lot of returning experience.
You or I might call the Blue Devils loaded.
Regardless of how you phrase it, Tipton comes back rich with proven players who have already led the team to important heights. The Blue Devils return their top three scorers from an 18-7 team which won the local Class 2A sectional for the second straight season before their run was ended by eventual state champion Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian.
"When you just talk in general terms like that, we do have a lot of people back that have a variety of experiences and they've been successful while they were younger players, and they've gained a lot of varsity experience," Hawkins said.
"I've never used the term 'loaded,' but I do think we have a high volume of returning experience."
Back to lead the backcourt are KT All-Area first-team player Nolan Swan, third-team player Grady Carpenter, and Jackson Money.
Swan, a 6-foot-1 senior guard, poured in points last season, averaging 19 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 3.3 steals. He's established himself as one of the area's top outside threats with 70 3-pointers last season while shooting treys at a 41.2% clip and hitting an area-best 88.3% from the line.
Carpenter is a 6-6 junior point guard with the length to finish drives at rim level and defend in the paint. He averaged 15.4 points, 6-3 rebounds, an area-best 7.4 assists, 2 steals and 1.4 blocks, and hit 36 treys. Money is a 6-0 senior guard who added 11.2 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.5 assists. He complemented the mix by adding 24 3-pointers and was efficient from the floor, tying Swan by shooting 49% from the field.
Other seniors include 6-2 wing Gavin Hare (2.2 points, 2 rebounds), 5-11 guard Drake Johnson, and 6-4 guard/forward Ryan Tracy, a move-in from Noblesville who Hawkins envisions as helping Tipton's post defense.
Other juniors include 6-2 forward/center Landon Spidel (3.1 points, 3.2 rebounds), who started several games last season, 6-1 guard Sam Quigley (2.1 points, 1.1 rebounds), who also got a few starts last season, and 6-7 forward Sam Humrichous, who Hawkins thinks will be cleared to play soon as he returns from an ACL injury.
Hawkins said with this much experience back "you can build on" offensive and defensive principals from the past.
"If you're on component A, you can go to component B because they've been with you for a few years. It makes a huge difference with experience," he said. "And what also happens is it allows our leaders on our team — they are so helpful in trying to get players to the right spots. Experienced players see the game. Inexperienced players don't really see it. When you have a group of people that see it, they see it better because they've got a lot of experience."
The Blue Devils averaged 62.2 points per game last season and want to push the action.
"There's no question that this team plays at a great pace, but that doesn't mean they don't recognize the things that have to be done," Hawkins said. "They can really move the ball. We'll go in transition hard, we'll play a different variety of things defensively that are very aggressive. Our guys really enjoy being aggressive, and I think we have enough ballplayers to be able to play like that. So I think it should be very exciting basketball."
Where Hawkins wants to see continued improvement are in shooting, rebounding and defensive habits, "all the little things like closing out, and keeping the ball in front of you, and quick help. If you're in a zone waiting on air time instead of trying to get to the guy."
Hawkins wants Tipton's players focused on those daily improvements and their daily work in order to get where they want to go on the season.
"With a team returning with a huge amount of experience, obviously this team has very high goals," he said. "But what's so important, even though we look forward to the future and all of that type of thing — and lots of people when they see you, they talk about it — our biggest focus is to win every day. Today, to win the practice.
"When you stay in the moment and work really hard, the things you want to have happen in the future have a higher likelihood than if you're only thinking about the future and not taking care of today. We are very much in the present moment."