NEWTON — Depth will be an asset for Newton Senior High’s Cardinal boys in 2013-14, according to head coach Nick Wilkins.
“We’re 10 to 12 deep this year on the varsity. We’ve got several key people back and other players who saw varsity action last year,” Wilkins said as the Cardinals moved through their first week of practice.
Newton’s boys finished 9-13 last year. They were fifth in the Little Hawkeye Conference with a 5-7 mark.
“We definitely should be in the battle for to top half of the conference,” Wilkins said. “Grinnell is the favorite but we also have Dallas Center-Grimes, which is new to the conference. They have a lot of kids back.”
What has Wilkins confident that the Cardinals will be better than a year ago?
Two starters — both are juniors — return to the hardwoods for Newton. Little Hawkeye Conference first-team selection Tyler Wood led the Cardinals in scoring last year. Nick Easley is back as point guard, and was the fourth-leading scorer.
The Cardinals have four seniors back, who saw varsity playing time last year. They are 6-3 Daquan Allen, 6-foot Chandler Sturtz and 5-9 Nick Glotfelty, all three are wing players, and 6-5 center Ryan Thompson. Junior Devin Shores, who is 6-2, and 6-1 sophomore Joe Banfield will battle for varsity playing time.
Others back for the Cardinals are 6-5 junior Jordan Travis, 6-3 junior Jarom Williams, 5-1 junior Alex Bartels, 6-foot sophomore Zakk Weatherly, 5-11 sophomore Jake Bennett, and 5-8 sophomore Drew Stout. They all figure in the mix for Newton as does 6-foot freshman Conner Gholson.
“We’re seeing a lot of good competition in practices. That makes us better,” Wilkins said.
Wood is a 6-foot wing player. He fired in 258 points last year. He brings a threat from the outside as well as putting the ball on the floor and driving to the basket. Wood knocked down 59-of-150 3-point field goals (39 percent), and shot 77 percent from the free-throw line, 37-of-48.
Wood also controlled 74 rebounds, which was third-best on the team. He dished out 24 assists and made 20 steals.
Easley was the playmaker for the Cardinals, handing out a team-high 52 assists. The 5-11 junior scored 115 points. He sank 18-of-15 free throw attempts.
Allen tossed in 75 points and pulled down 65 rebounds a year ago. He also blocked five shots. Sturtz had 54 points, 26 assists and 13 steals. He also nailed 11-of-41 3-pointers.
Thompson gives the Cardinals an inside presence at 6-5. He scored 29 points last year in limited action.
“We’re planning to play more up tempo this year. We have the athletes to pick up the pace on the court. That quickness and athleticism will come into play defensively also. We looked to really get out and put more pressure on people this season,” Wilkins said.
Wilkins said the Cardinals have players who can shoot the ball from the outside in. He said they will be able to put the ball on the floor and create shots for each other also.
Height is a concern for the Cardinals going into the season. He said most nights they will be facing teams with much bigger lineups.
“That’s when we have to really use our quickness to make up for the height disadvantage,” Wilkins said.
The Cardinals open the season Tuesday, Dec. 3, at Boone. They play their first four games on the road. Their home opener is Dec. 14 against Des Moines Christian.