CHS Boys Hoops: Despite questions, Motz likes effort and energy
Columbus High boys’ basketball coach Jimmy Motz is facing one of his most unique situations in the upcoming 2018/2019 hoops season.
After a little more than a decade in the varsity coaching ranks at three different schools, he’s never had so many questions about his lineup, about his talent level or about just what type of team he’ll put out on the floor when the regular season begins on Nov. 30.
With that many questions, preparation can be both exciting and concerning.
For the moment, it’s exciting. Although the practice season is only two days old, Motz sees a bunch ready to make a name for itself.
“This is by far one of the most inexperienced groups we’ve had coming back in terms of guys who have played a lot of minutes. We don’t have a guy like we had the last few years who’s a go-to guy. It’s kind of a totally new group,” he said Tuesday afternoon during practice.
“A lot of these guys are going to have new roles. That’s what we’ve got to figure out here early in the year. It’s kind of a throw ’em to the wolves, an audition or a trial run, whatever you want to call it, based on what we’ve got.”
Columbus came into last season having graduated a go-to guy in Mitchell Greiner. The 6-foot point guard averaged over 17 points per game, over two assists per game and hit for 30 percent from outside the arc.
His absence was filled by the three-headed attack of Michael Koch (11.9 points per game), Jazper Ackerson (11.6) and Andy Pike (11.5) last year.
Now, those three are gone as well as 87 percent of the overall scoring.
Returning are support players Blake Edzards (3.4), Landon Thompson (1.3) and Cole Wilcox (4.3) but those three are mostly also untested.
Edzards was a backup point guard who missed significant time due to a shoulder injury while Thompson was sidelined for a while with a foot issue.
Now all three, though only juniors are considered part of the leadership group that will take the helm in 2018/19.
“The nice thing is, I liked what this group has done from the spring until now in terms of getting in the weight room and getting in the gym. We had a good summer with guys coming in. So that’s a start,” Motz said. “These guys want to play. There’s a ton of minutes up for grabs.
“We’ve got a lot of holes to fill - scoring, rebounding, a defensive stopper, and we might play a lot differently. It might be a rotation where we play 10 or 11 guys. We’ve got seven freshmen right now that are up with us on the varsity. That’s where we’re at in terms of our depth. I like that young group.”
Columbus went 12-11 last year in an up-and-down season that included two four-game win streaks, a four-game losing skid and a period where the Discoverers dropped three straight.
It finished the schedule off with a 64-47 loss to Platteview, then fell in the sub-district round to Aurora, 64-55.
The year before was the best season in program history in 16 years. Bringing back four starters and eight letter winners meant the expectations were fairly high.
But those expectations were never quite realized in part because CHS had trouble in end-game situations.
“There were just times last year when we needed to make something happen and we didn’t. I think everybody was kind of looking for somebody to make a play down the stretch or who was going to take that last shot,” Motz said. “A lot of it was toughness, the ability to finish games. We were a great three-quarter team last year, but there were times we didn’t finish in the fourth quarter whether it was making free throws, getting a stop or putting a team away.”
Of course, with such a different group, none of that really matters now, though Motz said he certainly wants to see improvement in those areas.
The trouble is identifying who the playmakers will be.
“This group, though, there’s a lot of difference between last year and this year just based on who we’ve got,” he said. “I think where we’re going to make up for it in a lot of areas is how these kids compete and how hard they’ve worked, because that’s how we’re going to win games.”
It’s the one known quantity Motz returned to often for a lineup that is full of the unknown: effort.
“It’s a work in progress with what we’ve got, but I really like what they’ve done here the first couple days, and we’ve challenged them,” Motz said.
“I like the tone our older guys have set in practice. We haven’t had to stop and correct things in terms of effort or attention to detail or energy. They’ve brought that.”
What also has been apparent is the talent level in the freshmen class. While progress is needed physically, and the experience certainly isn’t there, Motz says the basketball IQ is.
It’s the one element that has surprised him most in the first two days in the gym.
“That’s the beauty of it right now. We’ve got a chance to see how it’s going to form, how guys are going to compete for minutes and who wants to be in those big roles,” Motz said.
When those roles are decided, and it could potentially be a fluid situation for some time, the recipe for success seems constant, no matter which five are on the floor.
What Columbus may lack in overall basketball ability, its drive and athleticism could make up for if the Discoverers want it bad enough.
“In my head, I’m looking at a group that could be as deep as 11 or 12. We can press people, we can get up and down, I think we’re more athletic across the board than maybe we were a year ago and maybe we’ve got a little more depth. And what I mean is, guy four could be the same as guy 10. That way we can throw different combinations out there and keep guys fresh,” Motz said.
“That’s what we’ve got to play around with here early in the year - who can do what in terms of offensively and defensively. But we’re going to win games guarding people and valuing the basketball. If we score, then that’s a bonus.”
Nate Tenopir is the sports editor for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org