PITTSBURG — While it will be a rotation filled with new faces, the goal remains the same for the Pittsburg boy’s basketball team in 2016-17.
The Purple Dragons graduated six seniors from last year’s team, which started off 0-4 only to win 13 of their final 16 games on the way to a Southeast Kansas League title. PHS enters the upcoming season with two returning starters and several student-athletes who saw significant minutes a year ago back as well.
“We know we have a good group of kids coming back,” Pittsburg head coach Kiley Roelfs said. “We had a great time with them this summer, so I think a lot of the excitement we have as coaches hinges around the type of kids we have in our program.”
Senior point guard Elijah Harris and junior forward Marque English highlight the group of returnees for the Purple Dragons.
Both Harris and English were all-SEK performers last season. Harris averaged eight points and three rebounds a game, while English was second on the team in scoring, with 14.2 points a game, and led PHS in rebounding, grabbing 7.5 boards per contest.
With Harris being the only senior, it would seem leadership responsibilities are on his shoulder’s, but that’s not the case, according to Coach Roelfs, who says the program’s philosophy over the last several seasons have allowed anyone to step into the role of a team leader.
“I like to think leadership is more of a ‘we’ thing instead of one or two people,” Roelfs said. “We’ve kind of tried to establish that along the years in our program. Hopefully, Elijah will set the tone and then everybody will join in. We have a lot of kids who have been around our program and know what is expected.”
Juniors Chase Curtis, Alex Kafka and Drew Roelfs, along with sophomores Dylan White, Jerek Butcher and Trent Austin, figure to fill out majority of the PHS rotation this season.
“The good news is, with as young as we are, we have kids who have played a lot of basketball,” Roelfs said. “We all know we are going to make mistakes because we are young and inexperienced at spots. But at the same time, I think the mistakes we make will be when we are being competitive and trying to do the right thing. You just never know until you start tipping it up.”
While last year’s team was a physical bunch, Coach Roelfs believes his team — which was picked to finish first in the SEK by the league’s coaches earlier this fall — will be different this season.
“We are not very big,” Coach Roelfs said. “Last year, we were a physical basketball team. We are not going to be as physical this year just because we don’t have that type of personnel. It will interesting to see how it all plays out, in terms of how teams will matchup with us and how we will matchup with them.”
To make up for the lack of bulk, Coach Roelfs is hoping his team’s unity, with many of his players in the program for several years one way or another, will be what pushes the Dragons over the top against opposing team’s with a lot of size.
“I like to think we have a lot of kids who have played a lot of basketball and understand what we are trying to get done on the floor on a consistent basis,” Roelfs said. “If we have enough guys on the same page, usually good things will follow.”
Pittsburg opens up the season at home with a matchup against Louisburg at 8 p.m. Friday.
-- Lucas Davis is the sports editor of the Pittsburg Morning Sun. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on twitter @LDsportswriter.