By BRYAN GASKINS Kokomo Tribune
---- — TIPTON — Tipton’s boys basketball team will have to hit the ground running.
Tipton’s full team was together for the first time this week, following the Blue Devil football team’s run to the state finals — and Tipton jumps right into its season with a home game against Northfield on Friday, a trip to Frankton on Saturday and a trip to Elwood on Tuesday.
“It’s not perfect, but we have a lot of experienced players. They’ll at least know where to stand,” basketball coach Brad Dickey quipped. “We’re not sure if they can move and guard effectively, but we’ll line up just fine. We’re not worried.”
Dickey said 14 of his players were part of the football team.
“We were working with 12 before they came in. More were out than were in,” he said.
Tipton went 25-3 last season, falling by a slim margin in the Class 2A north semistate for the third straight season. Bowman Academy beat Tipton 67-64 and it went on to win the 2A state title.
Tipton graduated Indiana All-Star and two-time KT All-Area MVP Mike Crawford, who closed his Blue Devil career with a school-record 2,104 points. He helped the Blue Devils compile a 92-14 record over his four seasons. As a senior, the 6-foot-5 swingman averaged 27.7 points and 8.9 rebounds per game.
Crawford now suits up for Atlantic 10 school Saint Louis.
Dickey also has to replace All-Area player Blake Hoover, who ran the point and averaged 10.6 points, a team-high 4 assists and 2.2 steals per game.
“We’re going to look different. That is clear. But we have options,” Dickey said. “We have pieces that can move and cut and run. We’re going to play differently. It will be a different challenge and a different look, but it could be fun and exciting as well.”
The Blue Devils return four players who saw action in all 28 games last season — 5-11 sophomore guard Mason Degenkolb (7.6 ppg, 1.5 apg), 6-4 senior forward Nathan Friend (7.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg), 6-5 senior center Luke Shively (4.8 ppg, 3.9 rpg) and 6-2 senior guard Tanner Maxey (1.9 ppg). Also back is 6-1 junior guard Brody Dell (1.1 ppg).
Shively is slowed by a football injury and may miss this week’s games.
Dickey also has junior forward Andy Overdorf, sophomore guard John Ross, sophomore forwards Jack Critser and Jacob Overdorf and freshman guard Sam Gutierrez in the mix for playing time.
“Our kids are going to play hard and work hard. But we really don’t have a lot of direction yet. We’re still working on varsity and reserve [assignments]. It’s just going to be a learning process,” Dickey said.
Dickey is optimistic his squad will have good depth.
“It’s a case where we have several pretty good players that need a chance. We’re going to make that happen. We’re going to get people on the court and learn all we can,” he said.
Defense has been a key to Tipton’s run of success, which includes six straight seasons with 19 or more wins. Last season, the Devils held opponents to 52.9 points per game and 43.5 percent shooting from the field.
“We work together and we try to defend hard. That won’t change,” said Dickey, who is 92-14 in four seasons as Tipton’s skipper. “Our kids enjoy playing defense and helping each other.”
Tipton is the six-time defending champion in the Hoosier Conference and has won 36 straight conference games.
BLUE DEVILS' SCHEDULE Friday Northfield Saturday at Frankton Tuesday at Elwood Dec. 13 Tri-Central Dec. 14 Rensselaer Dec. 20 at Lafayette Catholic Dec. 21 vs. Westfield + Jan. 7 Delphi Jan. 10 at West Lafayette Jan. 17 at Sheridan Jan. 18 Twin Lakes Jan. 24 Benton Central Jan. 25 at Kokomo Jan. 31 at Hamilton Heights Feb. 1 Eastern Feb. 7 Northwestern Feb. 8 Taylor Feb. 21 at Frankfort Feb. 25 Cass Feb. 28 Western + At Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indy