The numbers aren’t there, but the depth is.
That may be a contradiction, but let Catholic Central boys basketball coach Kyle Scott explain.
“Even though we don’t have a lot of numbers, our depth is very deep,” Scott said. “By that, I mean we have seven guys who could start or play 35 minutes a game. Whereas in years past, we haven’t always had that deep of talent one through seven.
“So we have very talented players one through seven. We just don’t have a lot of them. Does that make sense?”
It certainly appears to be far more encouraging for the Hilltoppers than last season, when they finished 4-19. Chad Zirbel, one of their best players, was injured before Catholic Central even reported to practice. And then leading scorer Frank Koehnke suffered a knee injury on the third day of practice and was limited for the rest of the season.
“He had a knee and a half and my second-best player (Zirbel) couldn’t play,” Scott said. “So, I think the injury bug was there.
“But this year, we had three sophomores who who played heavy minutes last year. The biggest thing is these juniors have played basketball all summer long and they played together for a long time.”
Scott will be relying on those juniors because seven of his nine varsity players are from that class. The other two team members are sophomores Neil McCourt and Reid Muellenbach.
The three returning starters are 6-0 guard Bennet Wright, 6-3 forward Chas Miles and 6-0 guard Brandon Pum. Joining them in the starting lineup so far have been 6-3 forward Bennett Robson and 6-1 guard David Doerflinger.
The graduated Koehnke was the dominant scorer last season, with his 17.2 average nearly 10 points more than anyone else. The two most established returnees from a scoring perspective are Pum (7-6) and Wright (7.0).
Wright, who averaged a team-high 2.6 assists last season, will be running the offense at point guard.
“He’s tough as nails,” Scott said. “He’s truly an extension of me on the floor, he plays with high energy, takes charges, can shoot the ball and doesn’t turn it over. He truly is a floor general.”
Miles, who averaged 5.7 points and 3.1 rebounds last season, is Catholic Central’s inside presence. Pum is a strong shooter who can finish with either hand and is a strong ball handler who once was a point guard.
Robson is the intangible presence who sets screens and rebounds. Doerflinger, “is probably our most athletic player,” Scott said.
The other juniors are 6-3 forward Paul Nevin and 6-1 guard Sam Henderson. From the sophomore class, McCourt is a 6-3 guard and Muellenbach is a 6-3 forward.
While it remains to be seen whether this team can make a run to the WIAA Division 5 championship game, which it reached in 2016, a dramatic improvement could be order. Scott believes this even though he’ll be playing a total of six regular-season games against conference heavies St. Catherine’s, Greendale Martin Luther and Whitefish Bay Dominican.
“Our league is crazy,” Scott said. “The Metro Classic Conference is just brutal. But I see no reason why we can’t be in the middle of the pack with Racine Lutheran, with Shoreland and with Thomas More. I think we’re right there in that mix.
“But every night is going to be a battle. There are no gimme games in the Metro Classic. Teams from the top all the way to the bottom would agree that any team can beat anybody in our league on any given night, which is fun to a part of.”