It could be suggested that Jake Berce has just about anything a coach could want on his Case High School boys basketball team, but that may not be true.
This coach might not have enough minutes to go around.
Berce, who is just the fourth coach in the 52-year history of Case’s program, returns five players who were at least part-time starters last season. One of them is 6-foot-1 guard JaKobe Thompson, who averaged 19.7 points as a freshman.
Thompson has scored a total of 67 points in Case’s 3-0 start, and he could get plenty of help from someone who is succeeding him as an impact freshman. Terryon Brumby, a 6-0 guard, went 9 for 13 from the floor, including 5 for 6 from 3-point range, in a 78-69 victory over Burlington Dec. 4.
There’s also 6-4 junior guard-forward Nick Fugiasco, 6-0 junior guard Logan Schmidtmann, 6-2 junior forward Sentreal Gilliam and 6-1 junior guard Jonathan Rankins-James, who were all starters last season.
Furthermore, players have gotten acclimated to Berce’s system following the transition of last season.
“It was a learning experience for everybody,” said Berce, who went 10-13 after succeeding Steve Jaskulske as coach. “Most of the guys who played last year didn’t have any varsity experience.
“I knew we’d have our ups and downs. We had some good wins and we obviously had some tough losses. But we have a lot more experience now and we’ll only get stronger as the year goes on.”
Thompson, who scored 36 points in a 95-80 loss to Horlick Feb. 2, played with remarkable poise as a freshman. He ended up averaging more than 11 points more than anyone else on the team.
“He’s got a passion for the game that’s extraordinary,” Berce said. “He just turns it on like a switch and he continues to surprise me game in and game out.
“His defense has improved, he’s talking more, he’s getting more vocal and he’s getting teammates involved. He’s letting the game come to him.”
But Brumby is shaping up as another potential dominant scorer after what he did against Burlington.
“He’s so calm,” Berce said. “He’s a quiet kid. He plays with that quiet confidence that you want. He does the right things and he’s got maturity beyond the freshman level, to be sure.”
What might be the most intriguing about this team is the chemistry it could have because everyone offers something unique.
Fugiasco, who averaged 7.8 points and a team-high 4.7 rebounds, has developed into a strong outside game.
Schmidtmann (6.6 points) is another strong outside shooter and has what Berce said is, “a high basketball IQ.” Gilliam (6.5 points, 4.5 rebounds) is a force inside whom Berce said, “really worked hard in the offseason in the weight room.”
Rankins-James (8.5 points), “is a great athlete who is getting smarter on the court,” Berce said. JayVian Farr (2.9 points), “is a great on-ball defender,” Berce said. The same goes for 5-11 senior guard Mylin Duffie, who did not play last season.
Cody Sardin, a 6-4 senior forward, brings more strength inside. So does 6-foot-6 freshman Amari Jedkins, whom Berce said is, “long and athletic. He’s getting better every day.”
More depth comes from a pair of 6-1 juniors — guard Isaiah Wright and forward Mike Casey.
“Mike is a real good rebounder and defender, especially on the basketball, and Isaiah is a good finisher at the rum,” Berce said.
Put this all together and the Eagles shape up as a team with just about everything.
“We have a lot of talent and depth and they all have different strengths,” Berce said. “We have some guys who are real good shooters, we have other guys who are really good defenders, we have great rebounders, we have great ballhandlers ... all these guys can make different impacts on the games and they’re all important guys.”
What potential do the Eagles have?
“We want to win the conference,” Berce said. “We all feel we have enough to win the conference.”