New faces, and a few key returners, look to lead Oak Hill in 2020-2021

The 2019-2020 season for the Oak Hill Golden Eagles was full of ups and downs. 

There were some struggles, and injuries, in the early stages of the campaign. However, as the season wore on, the Golden Eagles were much improved. A few lineup changes late in the campaign had the group playing at another level, and when they were on their game, they were a tough group to defend and contend with. 

The Golden Eagles will face a new host of challenges in 2020-2021, particularly on the injury front and with the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, but Oak Hill is ready to meet these trials head on and put together another solid campaign this coming winter. 

Oak Hill did not have much of an offseason. They were only able to get together for about three weeks in the summer, and they only played games one day a week. Because of this, Renbarger relied heavily on his upperclassmen to lead the younger players off the court and while preparing individually for the upcoming season. 

“We have a high number of seniors, and they know what to expect from me,” Renbarger said. “When you have a pretty heavy upper class, you’re allowing that upper class — when you can’t get with them and you aren’t allowed to do things together — to expand the culture of the basketball program, to take control of the culture of the basketball program, and take control of the underclassmen who need to still learn and figure out what that culture is.

“This has been a team where we have relied on what we set as a foundation of the culture of our basketball team.”

If that was not difficult enough, the COVID-19 virus has hit the Golden Eagles especially hard, as compared to the other four high schools in the area. Of their 17 kids, 15 of them have either had to quarantine or are still in quarantine protocol, which has directly affected their ability to practice or hold team workouts. 

However, they are continuing to roll with the punches, and Renbarger’s goal is to make sure that the team is ready to play this coming week despite everything going on around them. 

“I think we are ready. I think the kids are ready,” Renbarger said. “The kids are more resilient when it comes to what we’ve been facing.”

The Golden Eagles lost a plethora of strong players, including Tahj Johnson, who really flourished in his final two seasons, Kody Dubois, a sturdy player at the 2-guard spot, and Ryan Pederson, who became one of the team’s top players on both ends of the floor in the latter stages of the season.

Along with those losses, Oak Hill suffered even more before the preseason got underway. 

At the end of the football season, Tristan Hayes, one of the most talented big men in the area, suffered a knee injury that could bench him for the majority of the season. Additionally, Clay McCorkle also suffered an injury at the end of the football season, and his status, at this time, is up in the air. 

With those two injuries, the offensive mindset has changed considerably, and multiple players will have to step into roles. 

“We are going to have to rely on scoring by committee and defense by committee until we get it figured out,” Renbarger said. “While we still have some players back, we are talking about Mason McKinney being the only kid at this point, for at least the foreseeable future, having any minutes returning as a starter.

“We will have to rely on him. We have to rely on Kian Hite quite a bit. Landon Biegel has all the talent in the world, and he’s got tremendous potential, so he is going to have to step up in a major way.”

With the potential loss of McCorkle, Matthew Strange will take over the starting point guard spot, and Renbarger believes he is capable of doing so. 

“I think he will do well,” Renbarger said. “I think he will be very successful. He had a really successful JV year last year and shot the ball tremendously well.”

Along with Strange, Hite will share time with him in the backcourt after missing most of his junior season. Losing Hite at the beginning of last year really altered the course of the season for Oak Hill and having him back in the fold is a tremendous positive. 

“I’m just thrilled for Kian,” Renbarger said. “Last year was a long year, and not being able to play took a toll on him mentally and emotionally. I’m glad that he is back. He’s a step behind, but he’ll get that back. He could have a really big year, and he’s going to have to.” 

Landon Biegel, after a strong start to his high school career as a freshman, will be relied on even more heavily in his sophomore season. 

“He’s got that kind of ability and talent on the offensive end, and now, it’s time for him to start putting in the work…when it really matters,” Renbarger said. “We feel he is an all-county player and an all-conference player. He’s got a good motor, he listens well, and he’s coachable.” 

With COVID-19 still raging throughout the state, Renbarger and the Golden Eagles are planning to control what they are able to control and do their very best to follow all guidelines and protocols to play this season. 

“This year, more than any other…we need to continue to do the best that we can to play,” Renbarger said. “I trust that they will do the right thing off the floor, but on the floor…it’s just putting one [foot] in front of the other…and [coming] in with that mindset that they’re going to be in ownership of [themselves.]” 

Oak Hill begins their season against Manchester this coming Saturday at 7:30 pm.

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