After 28 years at the helm of the Hillsboro Trojans boys’ basketball program, coach Darrel Knoll still likes to keep opposing teams guessing.
That was a hallmark of last year’s team, with different players taking on the load as the season wore on, and Knoll has a number of those players back.
“We’ve got guys that like to play the game, and several guards that have the ability to handle the ball, shoot, and score,” Knoll said. “Since we have the ability to shoot well, if we can be patient to find the hot hand we should be able to utilize everyone to create the matchups we want.”
Senior Preston Loewen is a returning starter at guard, and Knoll is hopeful he’s past injuries that limited him last season.
“Preston has improved a lot from last year to this year,” Knoll said. “Last year he had some injury trouble, and he sees the opportunities of this year.”
Loewen earned Central Kansas League honorable mention last year.
Seniors Carson Heerbel and Braden Vogt will play forward, and Knoll said the returning started have been “leaders by example” in practice.
Junior sharpshooting guard Elias Worth’s 8.9 points per game and 3.7 assists per game from last season are tops among returning starters; however, sophomore guard Darian Ratzlaff put up 10.6 points per game off the bench, earning Wichita Eagle honorable mention and CKL second-team honors.
Returning letter winner Joe Knoll, a sophomore guard, was one of those surprise factors last year with a lights-out 17-point shooting spree in only six minutes in a win against Remington.
Sophomore Wesley Shaw and junior Eliot Olleburger also return.
“Even though we’re relatively young, we will need to utilize our experience,” Knoll said. “We have good quickness and depth on the perimeter.”
While an abundance of quick guards suits a fast-paced game, Knoll doesn’t plan to concede anything in the half court and inside-the-paint games.
“We have some OK height,” he said. “We have several around the 6’2” range. We definitely want to make sure we’re attacking the paint, whether that’s on penetration or getting the ball inside in other ways.”
The biggest key to a successful season, Knoll said, is the team’s camaraderie.
“We have a bunch of guys that are playing hard and playing together,” he said. “All the guys like playing together and they like their teammates. They all trust each other. We need that this year. I’m really happy with the effort in practice.”
The Trojans will open the season against Sterling at home Friday.