The Alcovy Tigers boys basketball team fell in the first round of the region tournament, leaving them on the outside looking in of the state playoffs and finishing with an overall record of 9-17 and a region record of 3-8.
The Tigers proved last season that they knew how to score points as they led all teams in points scored in region play, but needed some defensive help as they also led in points allowed. With a few key seniors graduating, the Tigers offense should run through outstanding guard Oliver Gerard.
Gerard has already earned the respect of many people in the county and is viewed by many as one of the best players in the area. The Tigers seem to go as Gerard goes, and that should be the case this year as well.
Head coach Mack Hardwick has big-time expectations for the remarkable senior guard but is also looking to help him improve his game in other areas making him a tough combo guard.
"He brings a lot of energy and athleticism, definitely an 'I'm going to get a bucket by any means necessary' type of player. Lord forbid a ball comes off the rim, he's going to dunk it back in, which has an intimidation factor," said Hardwick. "He has a really nice shot, and hopefully he'll shoot it more this year. He's got great ball-handling, so really he's a combo guard. So we're definitely looking to him step it up this year as a senior and be an integral part of this program."
Gerard echoed the sentiments of his head coach and is hoping to show everyone the type of player that he can be.
"I'm trying to develop my style more for college, but I need to be a leader and try to facilitate the ball more and get some more assists," said Gerard. "I'm trying to model my game after Lebron and improve my court vision and how I handle the ball."
Hardwick believes that one player that could surprise some people is a young freshman that should see plenty of varsity experience in his first high-school season.
"Freshman Ben Hodges has definitely stepped it up to the extent that he is playing varsity full-time," said Hardwick. "He hustles, and he's got the handles that we require him to do the things we are looking to do this season. A lot of big things coming from Ben Hodges this year, so I want the entire county to focus in on him."
Gerard mentioned Trey Howze and Justin Evans as two guys that could have a big impact for the Tigers this season.
Hardwick is looking for his group to improve and build their confidence in their shooting ability as the season opener inches ever closer. If they can do that, they can achieve some of the goals that Hardwick has set in his mind. He's keeping some of the personal goals private, but has one main goal for his team.
"Growth. Growth is very necessary for a program that has to make a name for itself," said Hardwick. "Seeing the overall maturation and solidifying the defensive concepts that we have put in place. So we're actually stressing basketball IQ and having it flow with our athleticism."
The Tigers should achieve these goals as the season progresses, but it will be interesting to see if Hardwick and his crew can accomplish the goals that he is keeping to himself.
Hardwick and the Tigers squad will get their season underway against the Union Grove Wolverines on Tuesday, November 12th, at 7 p.m.