While last season ended prematurely in the postseason with a double-digit loss to Northrop to open sectional play, it was still a successful year by Carroll standards.
For the seventh-consecutive year, Carroll finished with 13 or more wins in a season – notching a 17-6 overall record. An SAC Holiday Tournament championship was also a highlight, especially as the Chargers won all three of their games in the event by double digits.
While Carroll lost just two starters to graduation, they were a solid duo. Richie Gross (10.5 ppg, 5.2 rpg) and Ray Volmer (6.9 pp, 2.8 rpg, 2.7 apg) were versatile players on the offensive end, very good defenders in the half court and were extremely good leaders. They fit Coach Marty Beasley’s vision perfectly in terms of effective two-way players, and will be tough to replace.
But Beasley definitely has plenty of candidates in which to fill the departed seniors’ roles. Junior Jalen Jackson is back after leading the Chargers with 14.3 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. He is also an adept passer and may get his chance to run the point at times.
“Jalen has worked extremely hard on improving his strength, perimeter jump shot and decision making,” Beasley said. “He can score and defend at all three levels. He will also be counted on to be a leader.”
Jackson will be surrounded by seniors in the starting lineup. Guard Ryan Preston and forward Sam Strycker were both All-SAC Second Team selections. Preston may the team’s best all-around shooter, connecting on 46 percent of his three-point attempts a year ago as well as hitting 82 percent of his free throws while averaging 9.8 points and 3.6 rebounds.
“Ryan is such a hard worker and has really improved his athleticism and a quicker release on his shot,” Beasley said. “he is as competitive as any player we have had at Carroll. He will be counted on to be a leader as well.”
The 6-foot-4 Strycker may look like he will spend the majority of his time in the post, but the veteran who averaged 9.3 points and 5.7 rebounds last season will be relied upon more on the outside after working on his shot considerably.
“Sam is so strong and athletic for his size,” Beasley said. “He will be more of a perimeter player this year to help stretch the floor with his ability to shoot the basketball.”
Two more seniors will be expected to increase their roles this year – guard Cody Burkey and forward Zach Castator. It will be the 6-4 Castatdor that will be expected to pick up the slack of Strycker when he ventures out of the post on offense
Carroll also has plenty of length in its junior class – with 6-8 center Logan Lankenau and forwards Keegan Rhoad (listed at 6-2) and AJ Bane (6-4).
A sophomore to keep an eye on is guard Charlie Rudolph, who could earn some varsity time off of the bench.
Carroll is a perennial SAC contender no matter what the roster makeup is, with Coach Beasley’s system giving the Chargers a shot every year if it is properly executed.
But this year sees a lot of potential in this group with what it returns from a season ago. Carroll will be able to be a threat in transition with the likes of Jackson, and also dangerous shooters in the half-court with the junior as well as seniors Preston and Strycker.
WHY NOT HIGHER?
The top two teams bring back either a lot more production than Carroll, are led a Division I basketball player, or a combination of the two.
No. 3 feels right for Carroll, but it has the coaching and the personnel to threaten either of the top two on the court.
FEB. 19 VS. HOMESTEAD
Do we get this far into the season? Let’s hope so, because this one could very well decide the SAC regular-season championship.
The Chargers knocked off Homestead on the road last February in one of the more impressive victories in the area last season.
This time around, Carroll will take on the Spartans at the Fieldhouse, with a lot potentially on the line.
JALEN JACKSON, JUNIOR
Jackson acquitted himself well in his sophomore year last season, but could truly break out as one of the top players in the area on the court this year.
The junior does so many things well, namely getting to the basket and finishing. He shot 60 percent from the field last year and hit 72 percent from the free-throw line.
But Jackson’s biggest strides could be defensively, where he has the potential to force mistakes in the basket and get loose downcourt for easy buckets.