A year ago, Homestead kicked off the season with a lopsided 23-point loss to Huntington North, leading to questions on just how much the Spartans would fall off with a largely-inexperienced roster.
The Spartans ended the season with 18 victories and a sectional championship that was clinched with a one-point win over the very same Huntington North team that routed them in November.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see a similar story this year. Homestead returns just one of its top seven scorers from a season ago. Onye Ezeakudo, Sam Buck and Grant Raber have all graduated, while Jake Archbold and Trevin Taylor are not playing hoops.
That leaves sophomore Luke Goode (7.6 points per game) as the lone Spartan back with significant varsity playing experience.
“Every year is unique with different pieces coming in,” Homestead coach Chris Johnson said. “We need the next group of guys to step up like Onye, Sam and Grant did last year.”
Junior Zak Krueger will be the starting point guard, replacing Ezeakudo, who was extremely good at both attacking the basket and feeding teammates. Seniors Trent Loomis (6-foot-4 forward) and Zac Bradtmiller (6-1 guard) will be looked upon as they are thrust into the starting lineup.
Homestead will look to 6-4 Alec Grinsfelder to bring some physicality underneath after playing JV a year ago.
Two seniors will provide depth in guard Xavier Overstreet and forward Will Smith.
This team will be led early on by Goode, who feels like a veteran despite playing just one year of high school basketball.
“Luke has gotten a lot stronger,” Johnson said. “He is long at 6-5 and can shoot with the best of ’em. We may also run some sets with him to get him some looks under the basket. We can look to him for leadership as well.”
The Spartans should be a balanced team offensively, but will trend towards the outside shot until new guys grow comfortable in their roles inside.
The personnel changes, but the success remains the same. Homestead has won 18 or more games for seven straight seasons. Last year’s team struggled out of the gate, but came around to capture the program’s fifth-straight sectional and give Carmel, the eventual 4A state runner-up, a game in regional play.
Casual observers will question how this roster comes together and ends up being one of the best teams in the SAC, but we know enough to never question Chris Johnson.
WHY NOT HIGHER?
Outisde of Goode, there is no proven scoring threat, or any proven player whatsoever. The Spartans are very good at preparing their younger players to step in and contribute immediately once their name is finally called at the varsity. This year will be no exception.
However, teams above Homestead in our top 10 have more experience back, putting the Spartans firmly at No. 6.
JAN. 11 AT SNIDER
The schedule lays out well for Homestead in that the teams considered contenders in the SAC – Carroll, Snider and perhaps even South Side – are each scheduled for after the new year, meaning the Spartans have plenty of time to work out the kinks of a revamped roster.
Snider is arguably the most talented team in the SAC on paper. This game will go a long way in showing whether the Spartans are league contenders or not.