By Isaac Anderson
Since Mark Detweiler took over as head coach of the boys’ basketball program for Delta back in May 2017, it seemed to be a steady uphill climb for Delta basketball.
That was until the cancellation of the 2019-20 postseason at the regional level, after which the team graduated eight of their varsity players, including four of the five starters. Then, people may have started to have their doubts about the team.
Despite the lack of confidence that many people may have in the team this year, Detweiler thinks the Eagles may have some weapons beyond just the star players that you consistently hear about such as senior Brady Hunt.
“We have some guys that nobody really knows about and people will realize, ‘Oh that dude can play,’ ” Detweiler said.
He referenced Sam Cox, a 2020 graduate who he called a system player.
“Sam was a good system guy and all he needed was his opportunity.” Detweiler said. “He was ready. People didn’t know that he was ready because we had guys in front of him but when Sam got his chance, people saw that man that dude can play.”
Detweiler expects this year to be the same way. He thinks that the team has players such as junior Clay Bragg, junior Parker Faletic, and senior Riley Woodin, who could be players that few people talk about who will potentially step up and be good role players.
“We need another 3 guy coming off the bench or playing for us, so we need Clay to step up,” junior Neil Marshall said, “and Parker can just get in the lane and find people, so I definitely think they will make an impact.”
After the 2019-20 season, the team lost players like Zach Garner and Josh Greenberg, who were major team leaders. “Those guys led by example so much,” Detweiler said, “and to me it will be an interesting aspect for us.”
Will the team be able to get guys who play with the sort of grit and toughness that Garner and Greenberg did?
Besides being a team leader, Garner was “one of the best on-ball defenders that we’ve ever had.” according to Detweiler. The team also lost Conner Bedwell, who like Garner, was one of the team’s best defenders.
“I think one piece that will be the most glaring for me is losing guys that were able to just sit down and stay in front of people.” Detweiler said. “How are we going to replace that? That is the big question mark.”
Brady Hunt is the team’s most experienced player returning from last year. He has played varsity all throughout his high school career. Last year as a junior Hunt averaged 17.6 points per game and 8.6 rebounds a game. He was a major source of scoring last year and had nearly 31 percent of the team’s total points last year.
“We won’t be as reliant off the dribble as we have been maybe, especially last year,” Detweiler said. “We played off of a lot of space and driving action.”
To compensate, Detweiler plans to have the offense screen and cut more. This will help the team use Hunt to make up for the loss of the off the dribble threat that Bedwell a year ago.
Marshall has played varsity since he came in as a freshman. He got to play on the 2018-19 team that went undefeated during the regular season and advanced to the regional finals before losing to Marion. Marshall has experience and is expected to be another key player for the team.
Throughout Detweiler’s experience as a coach, one thing that hasn’t changed is the way that he teaches teams to play together.
“We’ve had guys that just understand that if we play together good things will happen,” he said. That will be the driving force behind this year’s team.
“When you lean on each other and play together, those end up being the best teams,” Detweiler said.
The Eagles are enjoying their best sustained success since Coach Keller retired from coaching back in 2010 after bringing Delta 11 conference titles, eight sectional championships, three regional championships, two semi-state championships, and the program’s only state championship.
In Detweiler’s first season, the team went 18-7. The next year they finished 27-1, and last year the Eagles went 20-4.
“I think if anything the last few groups have done is try to reestablish that Delta basketball name with what coach Keller had done for so many years,” Detweiler said.
He is confident that motivation is not a problem for this team and they are ready to go out and continue the recent success.
“I think that our last few groups have understood that hey we need to understand that if you’re part of our program, there’s a certain way you got to go about and do things.” Detweiler said.
The team kicks off its season with a revenge match from last year against Connersville on Nov. 28. The Eagles lost by eight points last year at Connersville and will play at home this season.
The team is eager to get out and show people that they can play ball. The team’s graduation losses will be tough, but with Detweiler’s experience and a motivated team led by Brady Hunt and Neil Marshall, the team has a chance to chase a third straight sectional title.
As Marshall explained it, “Our one goal is to win, and we are going to find a way to win.”