have enjoyed the luxury of Dante Jackson. Jackson, a 6-5, do-it-all
star, is now off to Xavier, and McClain has refocused on the core
ingredients that have made the Tigers an elite team in southeast Ohio
for much of the past three decades – defense and flawless offensive execution.
Joining Jackson on graduation day was three-year starter Michael Howard and pure shooter Garrett Taylor. Howard was an incredible defender and leader while Taylor knocked down nearly 40 triples for McClain last season. Together with Jackson, the senior trio accounted for nearly three-fourths the Greenfield offense throughout last season.
“The basketball losses are obvious in terms of points, rebounds, and all the other stats, but it goes even deeper than that,” said Coach VanMatre. “Our program lost some great leaders and some proven winners. Anytime you lose three and four year starters it is going to be difficult to replace them.”
One key contributor returning to this year’s squad is Jeremy Webster. Webster, a 6-4 post player, averaged 13 points per game last season. He is a strong presence in the middle that will be joined by a pair of 5-11 forwards in Dalton Detty and Nathan Luke.
Alex Anderson will fill the big shoes at point guard that have been worn over the past eight years by two of the finer all-time Tigers in Bill Cullom from 2000-2003 and then Jackson from 2004 to last season. Anderson was fitting in nicely throughout the off-season as the Tiger floor general, but the 6-0 senior has been slowed a little by a late season football injury. Senior Josh Hyer and sophomore Lucas Polley will also be asked to contribute in the Tiger backcourt.
“This year’s team will definitely need to have more continuity on offense,” said VanMatre who led his Tigers to a perfect regular season a year ago including the final No. 1 ranking in the Division II Associated Press basketball poll. “Over the past several years with Bill and then Dante, we have gone with more quick-hitters and isolations, but this year we will need to grind things up a little more in the scrimmage area.”
One of the top newcomers for Greenfield could possibly come in 6-6 freshman Vincent Zollo. Zollo is a versatile offensive talent that can do a lot of things with the basketball, and once the potential diaper dandy gets a feel for the varsity game on the defense end, he could really produce for this year’s Tiger team.
McClain is a member of the SCOL – South Central Ohio League. Many feel Washington Court House is the team to beat, and that seems to be the feeling of Coach Van Matre as well; however, the longtime McClain coach was quick to mention how balanced the league is this year.
“I would say Washington Court House is the favorite because they have their top seven back including four-year starter Alex Wilson,” said VanMatre. “After that I see some really good balance. There are some tremendous athletes in the league, and after watching the previews the other night, I think there are several deep teams that present quite a challenge.”
In the non-league, Greenfield plays Reynoldsburg and Goshen as well as much of the Scioto Valley Conference in Piketon, Zane Trace, Southeastern, Adena, and Unioto. McClain, a Division II team in the Southeast District, will be a part of a difficult sectional tournament that may or may not have them seeded in its normal, favorable seed; however, don’t count out the Tigers from making their annual trip back to the Convo in Athens.
“Our goals are the same here at McClain,” said VanMatre who enters his 27th season at Greenfield with a 415-158 record. “We realize the early going could bring about some growing pains, but our goals are to contend for the league and prepare ourselves to make a run in the tournament as deep as possible.”