Since taking over the Mississinewa program three seasons ago, James Reed and the Indians had taken all the necessary steps towards achieving a successful program.
And in Reed’s second year, the Indians put together one of their best seasons in program history. Along with winning 19 games, Mississinewa finished as both CIC and Grant Four champions. However, once again, their quest for a long postseason run fell short in a disappointing loss to Norwell in the sectional championship.
Despite this, however, Reed could not have been more pleased with his team’s progression, and he is looking for them to take the next step in 2020-2021.
“I was really proud of the guys,” Mississinewa Head Coach James Reed said. “I feel like our program took a turn last year in the direction of becoming a great, respected program. That’s our goal year to year. Last year, they took a turn from being individuals to a team.”
Being unable to take part in summer activities due to COVID-19, the Mississinewa athletic department took it upon themselves to hold virtual workouts, with resounding success. Reed attested to high attendance at these summer workouts, and that all of his players improved their physical fitness.
Additionally, the Indians took it upon themselves to work out apart from the virtual workouts held by the school, finding their own gym and getting their teammates involved.
“This year, we are already seeing the fruit from [those workouts,]” Reed said. “Obviously, it’s very early. No one knows how it’s going to go, but I’m very happy with the guys right now. I don’t have to convince them to work hard. I don’t have to convince them that details matter. They’ve had success from following what works and seen failure when we don’t apply ourselves to those principles.”
While the Indians do return a majority of their core group, the losses they did suffer were significant. Anthony Horton, the heart of the soul of the team, has graduated. Additionally, Trey Miles and Bryce Oglesby, key pieces off the bench, together with a strong team leader in Bryce Luedtke, also graduated, leaving several holes for the Indians to fill.
However, with players like Tai McClung, Landen Swanner, Hayden Ulerick, and Colin Yoder all donning the Indians’ red and white again this coming season, there is still plenty of optimism. All four have grown immensely in their respective roles, and Reed is ready for them to lead the program again in 2020-2021.
“McClung — he has developed an outside game, so I think he will be inside out a little bit. Landen was twice the size that he was last year. I’m really excited about the player he is becoming. He worked really hard in the offseason, and I think he is going to turn a few heads this year. Colin Yoder has become twice the player he was [last year.] I think he is going to be a lot more consistent. Every championship team has to have a Colin Yoder. We have had a lot of guys develop, but Hayden has really developed. His mind has been pretty good, but physically, he’s a lot stronger, a lot quicker, and a lot faster. I think he is going to fill some of the voids, not in the same way, but in a different way. I feel like one of the luckiest coaches in the state because of the four returners that I have back.”
Along with that core, three other players will see significant time in the Indians’ rotation. Kreigh Young has proved one of the hardest workers for the Indians in the summer and in the early stages of the season and has made drastic improvements in multiple areas.
“He has listened and been coachable, and he changed my vision and everybody’s vision about who he is as a basketball player,” Reed said. “He doesn’t even look like the same kid. He worked out every day, he ran, he was on a diet, and he has taken a leadership role.”
Additionally, sophomore Donovan Betts is a talented prospect with a ton of upside and athletic ability and should make an immediate impact.
“He has a chance to really produce,” Reed said. “Kind of like Hayden came a long way last year, I think [Donovan] is very similar. It’s going to go a long way.”
In practice, the Indians, while working on all aspects of their game, have focused primarily on defense. Already a strong defensive team, Reed wants his group to be even more proficient defensively this coming season, and believes that they will be.
“They have taken it as a challenge,” Reed said. “Our defensive average is going to be one of the best in the state this year. We’ve got some individual goals on that, and they’ve really taken it to heart as a team.”
Obviously, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect the sports world, and the fear of another cancelled season certainly hangs in the air.
However, the Indians are focusing on what they can control and plan to put together another great season for as long as they are able.
“We just focus on each other and focus on what we can control,” Reed said. “Right now, we can’t control corona. If they say we can’t play basketball, there is nothing we can do about it. We are going to come in every day, we are going to focus on our team, and then we will take the distractions and the hiccups as they come.
“I’m expecting from this group their best. I think if we get that, we will reach our goals. I’m really, really excited for this year. “I know our kids are excited, I know the community is excited, and I do think we will take another step this year in chasing that dream of not just being a state championship program, but a state champion.”