Winter preparedness: M-S boys' basketball competes in shootouts, summer leagues

Mahomet-Seymour boys' basketball is going to look different next winter. Veteran head coach Chad Benedict is gone. Cory Noe, one of the top scorers in M-S history, graduated and will suit up for Illinois Wesleyan University. Underrated leader Noah Benedict also graduated, and his vocal presence will be hard to replace.

But with departures, there comes a big window of opportunity.

Even though it's summer, new head coach Ryan Bosch hasn't eased up on the new-look Bulldogs. M-S has traveled to Lincoln, Purdue University and Illinois State University for shootouts this summer. All throughout the month of June, M-S hosted summer league games at the Fieldhouse every Tuesday night, where they could play an average of two or three games.

"We've started to figure out how we're going to play and look like as a team," Bosch said. "I've got a little better sense of the depth chart and what the rotations will look like as we get going; how we can set kids up for success and what those roles will look like."

Without Noe, Benedict and a host of productive seniors, the Bulldogs struggled a little bit down at the Lincoln shootout, but they found their stride at a loaded Purdue shootout.

"Went to Lincoln early in the summer for a shootout and honestly didn't play horribly, but didn't play consistently," Bosch said. "I think we were overcoming our early-season time together over there. We went to Purdue for a one-day team shootout against some of the cream of the crop in the state of Indiana, and we went 2-2. That was kind of the turning point for us in the summer.

"We started to see some groups gel together and some guys start to figure out what we were asking of them. We went to Illinois State a couple weeks ago for a four-game shootout, and we went 3-1 over there. The momentum really carried over from the Purdue trip."

A lot of the main contributors for basketball are multi-sport athletes. Senior Dawson Finch is going to play a lot of minutes for Bosch this winter, but he's also the starting quarterback for the football team and plays baseball this summer. Senior Jordan Veldman also is playing basketball, football and baseball this summer.

"I think the thing that's really been exciting is that work ethic that the guys have shown," Bosch said. "They've worked to make their schedules functional with basketball because we have a lot of multi-sport athletes, we have a lot of kids getting pulled in different directions and the numbers have been very, very good.

"To brag on Dawson a little bit, he went from football lifting, walked out of the weight room straight into the gym for league games, and then left early so he could go play baseball like that. I'm really appreciative of the leadership that he shows, and his commitment."

Finch and Veldman will be counted on to lead the charge defensively. Last year, they both came off the bench behind Noe and Benedict and their roles really weren't geared around scoring. That will change to some extent this upcoming season, but their defensive identity will revolve around Finch and Veldman.

"Jordan and Dawson gave us a great defensive identity," Bosch said. "They understand what the defensive backbone has been, looks like, feels like and sounds like. They're huge on that end. They've really helped develop some of the other juniors and seniors that are coming up."

Obviously, shouldering the scoring load will fall on junior Grant Coleman. Bosch believes he'll be up for the challenge.

Coleman showed glimpses last season of the immense talent that he possesses. He can score from all three levels, and his repertoire is loaded. The long athletic big man might have a higher ceiling than even Noe — which is saying a lot.

"Grant had a really good June; I was really pleased," Bosch said. "He's got a higher ceiling than we even expected this year. We always knew what kind of player he would be, but his learning curve has shown that he's closer to that now than we even thought he'd be. That really helped us."

Seniors Jack McHale and Lucas Turner and juniors Cole Lener and Kobe Essien stepped up this summer. Bosch was pretty experimental with lineups as he tried to figure out which units worked best together, but the development of McHale, Turner, Lener and Essien has been clutch.

"Jack McHale had some moments," Bosch said. "Jack has to get a little more consistent on both sides of the ball, but he's shown flashes of what he can be. Same for Lucas Turner. He showed a really strong character. He had a lot of adversity over the summer with his shooting stroke, he couldn't quite find it, but he really developed into a guy that can rebound for us and can help us play bigger. The really nice thing for me was to see Cole Lener and Kobe Essien develop quickly and really come on over the course of the summer. That's really where we clicked as those juniors start to figure it out quicker."

As the calendar flips to July, the emphasis switches to football, so basketball will be on the back burner a little bit. But the Bulldogs will still have lifting sessions and open gyms for the rest of the summer.

During the offseason, individual development is key, and the summer league games have helped guys like McHale, Turner, Veldman and Finch transition into much bigger roles. Noe and Benedict might be gone, but the expectations haven't changed.

"I don't know if there's a guy on the varsity roster who is coming back with the same role that they had last year," Bosch said. "Everybody's kind of got a new identity that they have to start building over the summer. It's easy to be the quiet kid in the gym when Noah Benedict is on the team. As he's left that void, we're going to need some vocal leadership and some lead-by-example.

"Cory Noe is the first guy in the gym and the last guy to leave. I can't ask for better examples for guys to learn from than those two. Our guys have really responded to that challenge this summer."


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