basketball program, the Pioneers hope a deep, athletic team can compete
for the top spot in the Scioto Valley Conference. Most will give
Huntington the nod in all the preseason talk, but most will label Zane
Trace as one of the top candidates to challenge for league supremacy.
“It’s probably a little unfair to mention us with Huntington,” said Alley. “Huntington has a lot back and they are definitely going to be the top pick. I also feel Westfall had a great summer, Piketon has some young talent, Adena has a great player in Roll, and you never can count out Larry (referring to Larry Jordan at Southeastern). I think we have a chance to be very competitive if we can continue to improve.”
One of the challenges for Zane Trace will be the replacing of Cody Chenault, who averaged 14 points 10 rebounds during his senior season, and Ben Haynes, one of the league’s best overall athletes. The Pioneers will look to two senior returnees in Matt Miller and Cory Keister to lead a deep team. Miller and Keister are both three sport stars (soccer/baseball) that are extremely athletic.
At 6-4, Miller can play a little bit of everywhere. He is a tremendous rebounder and many of the characteristics that make him an All-Ohio goalkeeper in soccer make him one of the area’s top defenders on the hardwood.
Keister, a 6-2 perimeter player, is also one of the top league defenders. He is constantly in the passing lanes causing havoc in the opponent’s half court offense, and he is also a great slasher on the offensive end that can really get it to the rim. Keister, Zane Trace’s all-time leading scorer in soccer, gives Coach Alley a lot of different options in terms of changing defenses.
“Defensively we can play some different types of zones as well as man-to-man,” said Alley. “As a group, we are still learning how to press. We definitely have the athletic ability and the depth to pressure people, but we are still in the process of getting kids to understand rotations and that sort of thing.”
The depth that Coach Alley is referring to starts with another senior in Beau Dailey. Dailey, the ZT quarterback in the fall, is one of the better three-point shooters in the SVC. Juniors D.J. Merriman and Dale McCullough also return with some varsity experience. Sophomores Gabe Haynes, Rick Chamberlin, and Dallas Cochenour will also compete for varsity minutes.
One of the biggest question marks comes at the point guard position. The Pioneers lost last year’s PG, Jarrod Uhrig, to graduation and are still looking hard for the player that will be asked to run the offense. Coach Alley feels like he has a number of players that bring something positive to the table.
“We have some solid ball handlers and some solid leaders, but right now it’s just about each of them getting some experience,” said Alley. “In our scrimmages it has been point guard by committee so to speak, but I see some positive things and I feel as the year goes on our point guard play will only get better.”
In the non league, the D-III Pioneers will play six Division II teams including Grandview Heights, Vinton County, Logan Elm, Washington Court House, Greenfield McClain, and Amanda. These six out-of-conference games, along with two games with Unioto in the SVC, has Zane Trace playing D-II schools in eight of its 20 regular season games. Add this to another tough scheduling issue that has Zane Trace playing seven of its first nine games away from home, and it is easy to see that if Zane Trace can survive the first part of the year than this talented team could be a very tough tournament team come late February or early March.