A look at La Porte Boys Basketball
Coach: Kyle Benge, 5-17 in 2nd year at school
Last year: 5-17 (0-7 Duneland Athletic Conference); lost in sectional opener to South Bend Adams
Key losses: shooting guard Austin Haferkamp (9.5 ppg., 1.9 rpg., 1.4 apg., 92% FT), forward Carlos Jenkins (9.4 ppg., 5.7 rpg.), forward Grant Seaburg (3.6 ppg., 3.0 rpg., 1.1 apg.).
Key returning players: shooting guard Garrott Ott-Large (11.4 ppg., 2.6 rpg., 0.9 apg. 36% 3-pt.), forward Drake Gunn (9.3 ppg., 6.8 rpg., 1.0 apg., 1.2 spg.), point guard Carson Crass (7.3 ppg., 3.8 apg., 2.6 rpg., 1.1 spg.), guard Jake Spence (4.4 ppg., 2.7 rpg., 0.8 apg.).
Key newcomers: forward Grant Ott-Large, shooting guard/small forward Peyton Marker (La Lumiere transfer), forward Grant Gresham (New Prairie transfer), point guard Jordan Nichols (Westville transfer).
Outlook: The last time La Porte won five games in a season, it bounced back the next year and won the sectional. That was five seasons ago. Coming off a 5-17 mark, the Slicers are striving for a similar result this time. At the very least, they believe a quality, turnaround campaign is possible. “Just based on the maturity level,” second-year coach Kyle Benge said. “Any time you have the season like we did last year, it’s always going to leave a negative mindset. Guys at the beginning, once the season was over, in the spring, in the summer, in the fall, they just kind of bought in, whether it was in the individual workouts, or the team workouts, the practices we had. It was their mindset they wanted to turn it around.” With this being the players’ second year of Benge’s system, the team is also further along. Benge said players know what spots to be in, they understand the plays that they’re running. “Some of the lingo that we talk about in basketball, they understand that,” he said. “Just another year of maturity, whether it’s physically getting stronger, mentally getting stronger.” The squad has four or five players back who played significant minutes last season. Shooting guard Ott-Large and forward Gunn are healthy, according to Benge, and both should play crucial roles. “It was a wash with (Ott-Large last year), not being healthy,” Benge said. “He did everything he could to help us. But he’s finally back to being physically capable to do things he wanted to do last year. Drake’s the same way.” Gunn broke his tibia before the season started and only played about five games. Benge added Spence had a great summer shooting the ball, and point guard Crass is over an injury he had at the end of last year after starting 18 games as a sophomore. Benge added Crass has more leadership qualities and is physically stronger, gaining 10, 15 pounds. “He’s poised to have a breakout year as well,” he said. Freshman forward Grant Ott-Large, Garrott’s younger brother, could also contribute a good amount. He set Kesling Middle School’s career scoring record with 751 points, breaking Garrott’s mark. Forward Carlos Jenkins is not on the team due to academics, after showing promise at times last year.
-- compiled by Zack Eldridge