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Tri-Central guard Jake Chapman puts up a shot during the Trojans’ 52-42 victory over Frontier on Feb. 9, 2021.

Tri-Central boys basketball coach Bill Bowen is replacing his frontline from last season.

“This team will be different,” he said. “We will be more athletic, quicker. Our ballhandling and shooting should be real [team] strengths. It depends on how we defend and rebound.”

The Trojans (11-12 last season) return two starters — 6-foot-3 senior guard/forward Jake Chapman, who is the reigning KT All-Area MVP, and 5-9 senior point guard Caden Leininger. The Trojans also return 6-4 post Jace Cassity.

Chapman scored 26.3 points per game last season, ranking No. 1 in the area and No. 9 in the state. He also averaged 8.0 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.9 steals. He reached 1,000 career points in just his second varsity season.

“Jake looks like he is in midseason form,” Bowen said. “He works really hard at his game. When your best player is a hard worker, you have something. ... He is bigger, stronger and a good leader.”

Leininger scored 10.4 points, which was second on the team, and dished a team-high 3.2 assists. Cassity contributed 2.7 points and 1.9 rebounds in a reserve role.

Up from the JV are 6-1 senior forward Luke Martin, 6-0 guard Kraig Bugher, 6-0 junior Daetyn Horn and 6-0 sophomore guard Landon Grant.

“We feel as though we had a good offseason and we are excited about the upcoming season,” Bowen said. “Practices have been good and spirited. Our biggest issue right now is getting healthy. We just don’t have a lot of depth and we are banged up pretty good right now.”

Bowen noted Horn, a likely starter, is out indefinitely with a knee injury.

The sophomore class also includes 5-10 guard Colby Wyrick, 6-0 guard/forward Layton Henderson, 5-8 guard Ethan Tragesser and 6-0 guard Stetson Newcom. Bowen said they are working hard in practice.

Led by Chapman, the Trojans scored an area-best 60.1 points per game last season. They shot 45.6% from the field overall, but only 30.5% from 3-land.

“We are early, but our shooting and scoring looks really good at this point,” Bowen said. “We have worked hard at 3-point shooting, but we are old school and [prefer to] drive the ball utilizing the mid-range game. Some people disregard that part of offense, but we still emphasize it.”

The Trojans have a tough opening stretch. They open against Tipton County rival Tipton, which has beaten TC 14 straight times. From there, the Trojans face Rochester (18-2 last season) and defending Sectional 55 champion Cowan. The Blackhawks beat TC in the semifinal round on their way to winning the title.

TC hosts Eastern on Dec. 10 to begin Hoosier Heartland Conference play.

“The Hoosier Heartland is shaping up to be very strong,” he said.

Sectional 55 is at Wes-Del this season. In addition to TC, Cowan and Wes-Del, the sectional also has Anderson Prep, Daleville and Liberty Christian.

“I think our sectional is wide open with Liberty Christian a frontrunner,” Bowen said, “but the Trojans plan on having something to say about that.”

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