Sec Taylor vs Backford 07.JPG

Taylor’s Mekhi McGee shoots against Blackford in the Class 2A Sectional 39 title game last season. McGee is one of the returning players for the Titans.

Taylor’s boys basketball program is in the midst of transition. The Titans welcome new coach Bob Wonnell, who coached Kokomo the previous four seasons, and are replacing five of their top six scorers after graduation losses.

That graduating class and previous coach Dennis Bentzler put the Titans on firm footing. Taylor was 12-12 last season after having collected just 17 wins over the previous four seasons.

Now, Wonnell takes over a team with several returning role players and has an instant scoring threat in his son Bobby Wonnell, who moved over from Kokomo for his senior year.

Bob Wonnell said taking over the Titans has has “been a lot of fun.” He’s started work on the middle school program and the Titans hosted a high school league in the summer which had 20 other squads playing games.

“I felt we got a lot better,” Wonnell said of this season’s summer preparation work. “In terms of varsity experience we’re pretty raw, but we’re talented. I think as we keep getting experience, I think we have a chance to be pretty good. The transition has been pretty fun.

“Our numbers at the middle school level are fantastic. What we have is good kids, good players, good attitudes and hard workers. I’m excited to see how we can do.”

Returning to the squad are full-time varsity players Mekhi McGee, a 6-foot-1 junior guard who averaged 6.6 points and 2.8 rebounds per game last season, and 6-4 junior forward Kaiden Blane (1.3 points, 2.4 rebounds).

Several players moved into roles over the course of the season last campaign and played between 11 and 13 games. Three of those players return as juniors now, including 6-2 junior guard Jay Patterson (2.6 points, 2.8 rebounds), 6-4 junior forward Misiah Bebley (2.2 points, 1.4 rebounds) and 5-9 junior guard Cody Groves.

Bobby Wonnell moves over after averaging 11.3 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game last season. He was a second-team All-North Central Conference selection. Rounding out the seven-player varsity core is 5-9 sophomore guard Chris Moore. Another nine JV players may lend support.

“We’re not a super deep team so we have to be both physically and mentally tough, and play defense without fouling,” Bob Wonnell said. “I do like this team. They seem to like each other, they have good camaraderie — they’re building that. But we haven’t been through anything yet. It’ll be interesting to see how we respond to things and keep getting better every day.”

At guard spots, Bobby Wonnell is a consistent 3-point threat who does combo guard work, McGee is a playmaker and strong defender, Patterson is expected to be a lockdown defender and strong on the glass, Groves is a shooter, ballhandler and helps get the offense moving, and Moore offers athleticism and ballhandling.

Up front, Blane is a good finisher at the rim, defender and helps create spaces with screens, and Bebley is a solid rebounder with solid ball skills.

“We have the abilities to be a really nice defensive team,” Bob Wonnell said. “We’ve got nobody that’s huge, but nobody that’s super tiny either. We’ve just got to continue to learn how to play and rotate [defensively] with precision. Defense should be something that as the season progresses … hopefully that we can hang our hats on and when we’re not shooting the ball very well, that can keep us in games and help us win games that maybe are ugly.”

Bob Wonnell talked about what fans will see on the floor from the Titans this season.

“I hope we get after it on defense and play the length of the floor, whether it be a man press or a zone press,” he said. “And then on offense I hope we push the ball up the court and move the ball really quick, and move ourselves really quick — be aggressive on offense and make [defenders] close out and make them rotate well and get the best shot for our team.”

After last season’s rebound season Bob Wonnell wants Taylor’s players to feel like they’re contenders for hardware and work toward that aim.

“I think that for us at Taylor, we’ve got to believe that we’re winners and that we belong with the names of people that you would think would win our conference or win our sectional, or that you think would be contenders in the state in Class 2A,” he said. “I want our boys in the locker room to believe Taylor is great and we’re here to stay.”

The Titans play in the Hoosier Heartland Conference and finished 5-3 in league play last season. Taylor is also in Sectional 39 with Blackford, Eastbrook, Madison-Grant, Sheridan and Tipton. The sectional is at Tipton this season.

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