By BRYAN GASKINS Kokomo Tribune
---- — Northwestern boys basketball coach Jim Gish counted on 6-foot-3 Trenton Brazel and 6-7 Chase Johnson to lead the way last season. The KT All-Area players combined to score 31.7 points per game, a healthy chunk of the Purple Tigers’ 53.7 average. They also recorded more than half of the team’s rebounds.
Now with Brazel and Johnson graduated from an 11-10 squad, the Tigers will need new players to step up.
“I’m pleased with where we are overall,” Gish said. “Obviously, we graduated a lot of our offense. But we have a lot of depth right now. We have kids who are getting after it. It’s been very competitive in practice.”
Northwestern will go with a smaller look. Gish has a surplus of guards and wings and not much size inside.
“We have a lot of guys who provide multiple skills,” he said. “It’s going to be important we hone in on those skills and put the kids in the best position to have success. We feel like our best biggest asset will be our depth.”
The Tigers’ top returning players include 6-3 senior wing Graham Ortmann (6.6 ppg last season), 5-10 junior guard Blaine Brutus (4.3 ppg), 6-1 junior point guard Jacob Wagner (3.4 ppg, 2.3 assists per game) and 6-3 senior forward Keagan Downey (2 ppg, 2 rebounds per game). Ortmann and Brutus are solid 3-point shooters.
Logan Galbraith, a 6-0 senior, bolsters the Tigers’ backcourt. He averaged 3.2 ppg and 1.3 apg in 11 games before an ACL injury ended his season.
“Graham Ortmann will be a key for us on both ends of the floor. He and Logan Galbraith are the best two leaders on the team at this time,” Gish said, noting Galbraith has worked hard to return from his injury.
The Tigers’ senior class also includes 5-10 guard Robert Olsen, 5-9 guard Evan Matlock and 6-1 forward David Schaaf. Olsen carved out a role last season as a defensive sparkplug.
The Tigers’ big junior class also has 6-3 Logan Macaluso, 5-11 guard Blake Oakley, 6-4 forward Derek Doubet, 6-4 post Tyler Hudson, 6-0 guard Spencer Lubben and 6-1 forward Riley Hudson.
Oakley averaged 3.1 ppg as a sophomore. He is currently on the mend after tearing an ACL during the football season.
“That’s a big loss for us. He provides offense and a lot of of other things for us,” Gish said. “We hope to get him back in January. I know he’s eager to get back and we’re eager to get him back.
Northwestern will rely more on perimeter shooting than in past seasons. Gish will go with a lot of guard-heavy looks.
“A lot of it for us this year will come down to our shooting,” Gish said. “A lot of what we do on the defensive end will be dictated by how we’re shooting the basketball. We need to have good offensive possessions to be able to do the things that we want to do. Obviously, with that many guards, we want to pressure the basketball. At times that will mean full court and at times it will mean half court.”
Gish likes how his players are bringing energy to practice and how they are feeding off each other.
“They all get along. They all want success. The combination of those two things really helps out. When you take the floor for game night, they understand there are only so many minutes in a game and a role is very important whatever that role is. We believe they’ll step in and do a nice job,” he said.
Gish predicts a competitive battle in the Mid-Indiana Conference, and another loaded Class 3A Sectional 20 field.
PURPLE TIGERS' SCHEDULE Wednesday Madison-Grant Dec. 6 at Western Dec. 7 Tri-Central Dec. 10 at Frankfort Dec. 13 at Taylor Dec. 14 Mississinewa Dec. 20 Maconaquah Jan. 3 Twin Lakes Jan. 17-18 at Howard Co. Tourney Jan. 24 Cass Jan. 28 North Miami Jan. 31 at Carroll Feb. 1 Sheridan Feb. 7 at Tipton Feb. 8 Southwood Feb. 13 at Peru Feb. 18 at Hamilton Heights Feb. 21 Eastern Feb. 25 at Oak Hill