Indian Hills basketball fans didn’t know what to expect from head coach Barret Peery’s team at this time last year.
This year, Warrior fans are back to having familiar expectations. Those expectations are that they’ll be a trip to Hutchinson, Kansas in March.
For the second straight year, IHCC begins the season ranked among the best junior college basketball in the nation. The Warriors hope to be among the same elite company at the end of the season playing for the right to be call NJCAA Division I Men’s Basketball National Champions.
Just like last year, the journey to get to Hutchinson begins tonight on the Warriors home floor. Indian Hills, ranked fifth by the NJCAA and second in ‘Basketball Times’ junior college preseason poll, tip off the 2012-13 campaign tonight at 7 p.m. against Carl Sandburg in the Jack Blackwell Classic.
“We’ve been waiting on this day. We’ve been waiting to come out and show the community that we’re ready for Nov. 2,” sophomore Trinson White said. “There’s a lot of excitement. Everyone’s pumped up to come out here and get the season started the right way.”
White is one of seven returning sophomores, five more then last year’s team which had several new players and a brand new coaching staff coming together. That team went on to have a successful 33-4 record and took Indian Hills back to the national tournament for the first time since 2008.
With so many players back, Peery likes where his team stands as he prepares for his second season at the helm of the Warriors.
“I think you’d expect us to gel a little quicker then we did last year,” Peery said. “Last year, everybody was new. This year, with seven guys returning, it allows us as a team to really hit the ground running.”
“I think we’re a step ahead of where we were last year at this time,” White added. “Coach already made it loud and clear that we’ve got returning players and that we should know what to expect this season.”
What fans should expect is more of the same exciting style of basketball that helped bring new life to the Hellyer Student Life Center for every Warrior home game. The up-tempo style was on full display in IHCC’s opener of the Blackwell Classic last season as Indian Hills put up 119 points in an easy win over Indiana Darby.
That was just the start of things last year as the Warriors topped the century mark on the scoreboard four times in their first 10 games while keeping up a 100-point average. IHCC finished Peery’s first season averaging 91.4 points a game while allowing just 70.6, showcasing a tenacious full court style of play that routinely wore down Warrior opponents.
There’s every reason to believe the Warriors can keep running Peery’s successful style throughout this year.
“I think we’re ahead of where we were at this point last season,” Peery said. “Those returning players help us set the table for what we expect to do this year.”
Among those seven returning players are Jameel McKay, who led IHCC as a freshman with 14.4 points and just over eight rebounds a game. After being the only Warrior selected to the NJCAA’s All-Tournament team last year, the future Marquette Golden Eagle is certainly being looked at as the leader of this year’s team as the top returning sophomore.
“I’ve embraced that role, but it hasn’t been easy at all times. It’s a different role for me then last year,” McKay, the third-ranked junior college ‘super sophomore’ by the Basketball Times, said. “Coming in as a returning player and knowing the system here, I’m trying to bring the new players along the same way I was brought along last year.”
Those new players included another mix of quality transfers and highly-touted freshmen. The transfer class includes Ronald Ross, who keyed Vincennes to a season split with IHCC last year and was second on the team with 17.7 points per game as a freshman for the 28-3 Trailblazers.
Other transfers include Richard Amardi, who joins fellow Scarborough, Ontario, Canada native Martin Dixon-Green on the Warriors. Dixon-Green is one of the four freshmen on the Warriors from locations that have been good to IHCC in recent years.
Gary Williams, Jr. makes his to IHCC from Oakland, California - the state that produced last year’s All-American sophomore Gary Ricks, Jr., current sophomore Frank Williams and the same city that produced last year’s assists leader Roderick Bobbitt. The 6-4 guard joins 6-7 Detroit forward Justin Moss, Green-Dixon and Majok Deng from Australia, making Deng a countrymate of former all-time Warrior great C.J. Bruton.
But no matter where they’ve come from, the 2012-13 Indian Hills Warriors know where they want to go. A return trip to Kansas is on agenda for IHCC players, coaches and fans with hopes of bringing home extra hardware as national champions for the fourth time in program history.
“I think that if we work hard, stay healthy and keep our players’ minds right that we have a chance to do something very special this year,” Peery said. “We had a good group last year. I think we have an opportunity to be even better this year.”
“We’re just trying to rally and get back to Hutch. That experience is going to make us more comfortable. We’ll be ready to go and be ready to win once we get there,” White added.