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Kaneland boys basketball coach Brian Johnson enters the season in a different situation than in his prior years with the Knights.
"The last three years we had some go-to guys as far as Dave Dudzinski, Chaon Denlinger and Marcel Neil. This year we're going to be a team that looks to depend on each other to score and be successful."
That's not necessarily a bad thing, and is not dramatically different from what happened last year in Maple Park. Five players averaged between Neil's 13.3 points a game and Drew David's 6.5 points. Sharing the load is actually a good thing.
Besides third-year point guard David all have either graduated or, in the case of promising Thomas Williams, moved to the Dallas area. Johnson said David will start the season inactive after a thumb injury in football, creating a "by-committee" approach to the point guard position between experienced Dan Miller, John Pruett and last year's sophomore point guard, Tyler Carlson.
Though they were sophomores, Pruett and Carlson practiced with the varsity, so they'll be familiar with the man-to-man defense and motion offense Johnson teaches. Familiarity, though, won't be commonplace.
"There's probably going to be a lot of I-don't-knows when people look at our roster," Johnson said.
That's mainly because the Knights are young. The 11-man varsity roster includes freshman guard Dylan Vaca, sophomore guards Ben Barnes and Connor Fedderly (Kaneland football coach Tom Fedderly's son) and only two seniors, Miller and Matt Limbrunner.
Johnson believes Limbrunner can be a "huge player." The 6-foot-4 senior forward had a strong summer trying to bulk up averages from his junior year, when he averaged 4.8 points and made the fourth-most field goals among Kaneland players. Limbrunner worked on back-to-the-basket post moves and expanding his shooting range to around 15 feet.
"He was the one constant as far as offensively during the summer." Johnson said. "We were trying to get him the ball and trying to make him a presence on the team."
Hopefully taller opponents won't make a presence on Kaneland. Seven of the 11 on the Knights varsity roster range from 6 feet to 6-2. Last season, however, Kaneland grabbed 760 rebounds to 534 for its opponents. Fielding a bunch of scrappers, perhaps it'll go that way again.
They say the best thing about juniors is they become seniors. Johnson will wait a year to realize that. In the meantime the Knights will battle, all for one and one for all, for the Northern Illinois Big 12 East title as usual.
"I think more than any team I've had we're really going to have a team that it's going to be hard to rely on one person to get the job done. We're really going to have to rely on everybody, whether it's the five guys starting the game or somebody off the bench," Johnson said.
"Not any one of them is going to go out and score 20 a night, but they're definitely going to go out and contribute."
Coach: Brian Johnson (fourth year, 51-30)
Last year: 17-11, 5-5, tied for second in the NIB12 East
Key players: Drew David, G, jr.; Matt Limbrunner, F, sr.; Dan Miller, G-F, sr.
Skinny: Limbrunner and newcomers look to impress