Bishop Dwenger is going to have to start from scratch in the post, but return three starters on the wing when the 2018-19 season gets underway.
Seniors Hayden Smithey (14 points per game) and Matt Kochanski return, as does sophomore Brenden Lytle. Smithey, after being named First Team All-Summit Athletic Conference last season, will be expected to be a do it all guy for the Saints this season expected to score more and increase his leadership.
“He has kind of grown into that. This will be his third year starting so I am expecting big things from him,” Saints coach Matt Kostoff said.
Kochanski and Lytle were thrown into the fire a year ago splitting some of the point guard duties replacing a heavy core of guards. Their intelligence will be relied upon to help pace games with a year of experience under their belts.
John Hoffman and Jackson Bennett will spell some relief in the post at 6-foot-5 and 6-7 respectively. The Saints lost center Lucas Lehrman and forward John Henry Reith to graduation. Hoffman and Bennett both played varsity last season in limited roles. Senior Jack Kinder will also add height at 6-7 after playing JV last season, his first year with the program.
“Everybody has to make that next step. Our JV guys have to make that varsity step, that is always a big jump from the 6 o’clock tip to the 7:45 tip,” Kostoff said.
Kostoff is confident about the ability of younger guys to up their games after some quality time over the summer. The Saints played in three shootouts in June, but never with completely the same group because of players’ other responsibilities, especially the seniors with testing and college visits, Kostoff says.
A big part of the conversation of Bishop Dwenger basketball every year hinges on the length of football season with this year being no different. Several players from the Regional champion Saints football team will make the transition with basketball opening their season December 4 against Norwell.
Only one senior, Jared Lee, plays football but the junior class is heavier with football players including Patrick Finley, who returned in the Regional round of football after breaking his collarbone earlier in the season. Lytle, the quarterback and point guard, will also be a key piece from the football program. Kostoff remains in a wait and see approach with the two sport players with it still unknown when the Saints football season will end and who will be healthy to play basketball.
“The benefits far outweigh the bad part. They come with that winning attitude, which is huge and that transfers,” Kostoff said.
Lee could step into one of the starting roles left vacant by graduation. He missed football and basketball during his junior season.
“He is one of those kids that may not do anything spectacular, but he just makes everybody better,” Kostoff said.
Kostoff has 239 career wins in his 20 seasons at Bishop Dwenger. The Saints are always a postseason threat despite sub-.500 seasons each of the last four years (12-11, 12-11, 11-13, 14-14). The have been to the semi state round twice in the last five years, including that 14-14 season in 2014-15.
“I think this is going to be just like football, where there are going to be a lot of good teams. You have to be on your A-game every Friday night because there are a lot of teams around town that have improved,” Kostoff said.
Kostoff coached teams are always competitive and this teams brings back a lot of critical pieces, which doesn’t happen every year for the Saints. Their guard play is intelligent and it will help them start the season stronger than usual.
WHY NOT HIGHER?
Bishop Dwenger doesn’t possess the raw athleticism of some teams. Does that mean they finish below more athletic teams? No. But to start the season out, sometimes the more athletic teams have an advantage, especially until any football players have time to mend after another long season.
December 21 at the Marion Classic
Bishop Dwenger will be the only area team to challenge Richmond and former North Side coach Shabaz Khaliq this year. A couple of weeks into the season, the Saints will be in better shape than game one and it will give a good example of how ready they are for the SAC Holiday Tournament. The abilities of the two teams match up well too.