Replacing seven seniors is never an easy chore for a basketball coach. For Clay City coach Grant McVay, finding players to step up and replace the 40 points per game, 16 rebounds and seven assists that were lost to graduation isn't the hardest part. The toughest job will be to replace the leadership.
Elliott Booe, Matt Farmer, Landon Wellman, Greg Long, Steve Schopmeyer, Cody Gerber and Josh Stoelting represented the Eels on the hard court with their toughness work ethic and determination as well as their statistics. Having players fill that void is the first step to finding out what sort of season Clay City will have this year.
"Certainly we're going to lose a lot," McVay noted. "We'll miss those kids as people We're very happy with the kids we have, but those seniors were an excellent group of men."
Familiarity will also be a factor as a group of six seniors will take over the reigns this season.
Camrand Tucker, Jared Defore and Roger Harden will likely be the biggest cogs with their experience from last year. The three averaged more than 20 minutes per game last season and will be counted on to add to that number.
Defore appears healthy after suffering from knee problems midway through last year when he averaged nearly 10 points per game. He will also be their biggest outside threat after hitting 50 percent from long range last yeare (20-of-40).
Harden will be a key rebounder along with Tucker this year though McVay believes that to win, the Eels must all step up. "We need all five kids to defend and rebound. It's not like we have one big kid to claim all the rebounds. How tough we are will determine how good we are."
The Eels should be strong up front but will expect a group of juniors to step up to provide depth.
T.L. Roeschlein and Brock Dyer will be counted on to provide numbers after strong junior varsity seasons in the 2002-03 year along with Klay Knox and Clay Jones who can also provide outside shooting.
Each of the members of this season's team will have to fill the gaps in numbers and teamwork left by the graduated seniors. Though chemistry may take some time to develop, the squad should be solid in the long run.
The Eels will open their season at South Vermillion on Nov. 26 at 7:30 p.m.