Winters in Indiana traditionally see three things.
And the Carroll Chargers winning 10 or more games on the hardwood.
Coach Marty Beasley‘s program has reached double-digit victories in six straight seasons. In fact, Carroll has not won less than nine games since the 2005-06 campaign.
No matter the turnover on the roster, Beasley and the Chargers have been able to continue to be a contender in the old NHC and now the SAC for the better part of 12-plus years.
Despite the graduation of leaders David Ejah and Dan McKeeman from a 15-win team, you can expect Carroll to be towards the top of the conference again.
But who leads the way, both in leadership and in production, remains to be seen.
“We really have a lot of guys who are in the mix,” Beasley said. “We are trying to figure out who fits where.
“It is a situation where one day someone will stand out, then the next day someone else will.”
Expect seniors Richie Gross (5.0 ppg, 2.0 assists per game) and Ray Vollmer (4.0 ppg, 1.9 rpg) to be big parts of the Chargers this season. Both bring back starting experience and the capability of jumping up their offensive production considerably.
Junior Sam Strycker will also be in the mix. In 23 games, Strycker scored just 2.3 points per game last year, but he shot over 50 percent from the field and can also be a clutch three-point shooter.
Guard Ryan Preston is another junior who should see an expanded role. He burst onto the scene with a double-digit performance in a 58-51 win over Snider on Jan. 25. But he scored just three combined points over the final five games of the year.
Sophomore Jalen Jackson appeared in just a single varsity game last season, but scored seven points in a loss to Northrop in late February. Beasley is high on Jackson but won’t pencil him into the starting lineup just yet.
“To be honest, we may be switching up the starting lineup from game to game searching for the group that gives us the best chance to win,” Beasley said. “We should be able to go eight or nine deep. I would rather have a large group of solid players than being top heavy with one or two stars.
“We may have to win games where four guys score eight to 10 points.”
This team will have to learn on the fly, as Beasley never shies away from playing a tough schedule. Carroll will open at Penn the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
“Our guys will learn a lot more playing against really good teams than beating teams will enrollments of 300 or 400 by 30,” Beasley said.
Despite the loss of a combined 28.2 points per game with Ejah and McKeeman, Beasley is one of the best coaches in the area in meshing new or inexperienced talent into his system. What this team lacks in size it will make up for in outside shooting and playing outstanding defense.
In an SAC that feels as if it has a considerable gap between the top 3-4 teams and the rest of the league, the Chargers should be in the thick of it with the likes of Homestead, Snider and South Side.
WHY NOT HIGHER?
Carroll played Homestead tough twice last year, but lost both times. It was also bounced by Northrop in sectional play in what caught some by surprise.
What does that mean for this year? Not much to be honest, but there are a lot of questions on the offensive end of the court with Ejah and McKeeman gone. Can the Chargers develop in the scoring department enough to challenge the likes of Homestead and Snider?
FEB. 21 AT HOMESTEAD
Rivals collide in one of the final games of the regular season. Could it be the winner wins the SAC?
Four months from now, the Chargers should have things figured out in terms of who is carrying the scoring load. The defense alone is good enough to keep Carroll in a lot of games while the offense grows comfortable, but the team will need both to have a shot to knock off the SAC favorites.
JALEN JACKSON, SOPHOMORE
Is it a reach to make a kid that has played just a single varsity game as the crucial player for this team? It could be, but Jackson’s versatility and quickness give this team something it doesn’t have elsewhere.
Carroll could use a slasher to open up opportunities on the perimeter, particularly with this team lacking size. Jackson can do that and may be ready to shine at the varsity level.