ARCANUM – A word Marcus Bixler likes to use to describe this year’s Arcanum boys basketball team is unselfish, a trait the Trojans will rely on this season.
Arcanum lost five seniors to graduation and also lost its leading scorer and rebounder as Conner Pohl decided not to play this season. In all, the Trojans are without their top four scorers from last season and only return three players with varsity experience.
While there are a lot of holes to fill, Bixler has been encouraged by his team’s preparations for the upcoming season. The Trojans had a large number of players work hard in the offseason and in scrimmages, he said, and showed the necessary passion and intensity.
“We’ve been very fortunate to have a core group of guys that have put the time in,” Bixler said. “They’ve done a good job of getting themselves varsity ready.”
Leading the Trojans are their trio of returning players in senior Austin Baker, senior Cole Burrell and junior Brandon Kinney. Baker is Arcanum’s top returning scorer as he averaged 5.0 points per game last season, Burrell is the team’s top returning rebounder as he averaged 3.0 rebounds per game, and Kinney led the Trojans in assists last season with 2.2 a game.
Arcanum will rely on those three on both offense and defense, Bixler said, and also will look for them to be leaders. So far they’ve all done a great job of leading by example and communicating expectations.
“(They’ve) done a really good job of being leaders and establishing a work ethic and intensity that we need in practice every day,” Bixler said.
Joining Arcanum’s varsity roster will be juniors Alec Atchley, Devin Burns and Brandon Riffell. Alec Atchley will miss the first 11 games of the season as a result of Ohio High School Athletic Association rules after transferring from Franklin Monroe.
Also stepping up to the varsity roster will be sophomore Andrew Baker and freshman Wade Meeks. Sophomore Wills Troutwine and freshman Evan Atchley will split time between the varsity and junior varsity teams.
Being short on experience, Arcanum has had some growing pains as it prepares for the upcoming season.
“There still have been some inconsistent spots, which is to be expected when you’re trying to get a new group ready to go,” Bixler said of his team.
In addition to being inexperienced, Arcanum also doesn’t have much height with its tallest player standing 6 feet 1 inch. Not being very big, the Trojans will need to move the ball around, which is where their unselfishness will come into play.
“That can be a blessing and a curse,” Bixler said of his team’s size. “So it’s our job to make sure it’s a blessing for us.”
Arcanum needs to work on its consistently and decision making, Bixler said, which will come with time. The Trojans also need to be more physical, do the little things correctly and find makes to make some defensive stops.
“We need to find ways to string stops together,” Bixler said.
Arcanum hasn’t set any long-term goals and instead focuses on a game-by-game basis. But with a group that is extremely intense and unselfish, Bixler is hopeful that the Trojans will be able to have a successful team this season.
“We’ve done a really, really good job of being offensively being able to spread the floor,” Bixler said. “You’ve got to be able to pass the basketball and you have to be able to make the correct reads.”
Kyle Shaner may be reached at 937-569-4316. Follow me on Twitter @KShanerAdvocate or get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.