When Norwell lost their first five games to start last season, it was a real reminder that the rebuild was on following a 22-win 2019-20 season. It was expected for sure, but until it happened, you didn’t really know how a still young Knights team was going to react.
They then won 4 straight and finished 10-14, going above .500 in the remaining games after the 0-5 start.
To the benefit of the future, Norwell returns six players of consequence from last season’s team and they all have two years left in the program. Losing just Eli Riley, which in fairness is a big loss for this group, means that Norwell has plenty to build on from a team that had quality conference wins over the likes of Huntington North and Bellmont.
“We are excited as we return six players that played significant minutes last year when they were sophomores. We return 45.5 points per game and we gained valuable experience last year,” Norwell coach Mike McBride said. “We will also be adding some talented sophomores from a 16 win JV team last season.”
The head of the junior class is two year starter Luke McBride who was one of the area’s best scorers last season at 21.1 points per game. The lights out shooter has developed from that being his only role as a freshman and has developed an eclectic game to lead his class. McBride can really make things go for Norwell and leads their NE8 hopes.
He will be joined in the backcourt by fellow returning Lleyton Bailey (8.1 points/2.5 assists per game). They will see fellow junior Gavin Hoeppner join them as well as sophomore guard Cohen Bailey.
“Our guard play will be a real strength for us and we feel we can be a great rebounding team this year. It is important that we continue to improve our defense this year as that was an area we struggled with last season,” Mike McBride said.
The brunt of Norwell’s team comes in the front court with five forwards who can all space out the floor and shoot. That ability to spread out defenses is going to work signficiantly in Norwell’s favor. Luke Graft (3.7 points/5.1 rebounds) is back after a stellar football season and he will be joined as a front court returner by fellow juniors Jon Colbert (5 ppg) and Jake Parker. Sophomores Cade Shelton and Ashton Federspiel, who have strong Norwell basketball bloodlines, will also join the front court heavy group.
In the middle, Norwell will look to contend with a big, strong conference with the return of 6-foot-3 center Brody Bolyn. Last season, Bolyn averaged 4.6 points and 5.8 rebounds per game.
The Knights, this season, will take on six SAC schools and participate in December’s Noblesville Tournament.
“We look forward to seeing the growth of our guys after playing in a lot of big games last season with so many young kids. Our kids are excited about this season and we are looking forward to a very good NE8 and a challenging non-conference schedule as well,” Mike McBride said.
This team can shoot the lights out and they aren’t afraid to pull the trigger. Long has the current group had high expectations so as they get later in their high school careers, those expectations only grow.
The fact that Norwell didn’t take as much of a step back last season as many projected means that these kids know that is at stake for Norwell’s reputation. This is very much one of the best basketball programs in the area now and not at a single season clip. The talent is there, the development is there and Norwell is a top team.
WHY NOT HIGHER?
The Class of 2023 had successes as freshman and again last year. Can they extend that to play on a higher level? That is the question here. We know that the Knights can hit shots but can they consistently win the battles in the trenches?
Coach Mike McBride knows how to turn up the dial and it he can get his team to continue to buy in and establish depth, they will be a top tier team. We want to see them take it to the next gear first.
January 8 vs. Leo
The chance to be NE8 champions runs through Leo. It has for the last two seasons and while Norwell and their high powered then-senior class was able to get it done in 2020, it was all Lions in 2021.
This game will match up a high end, long and strong senior class for Leo against a savvy and tough shooting Norwell.
Is the winner of this game the NE8 champion? Maybe and maybe not. A lot of other teams have things to say about it, but as far as we are concerned, there is a good chance that this year’s trophy will again go to the winner of this game. Can Norwell match Leo inside?
Jon Colbert, junior
Talking about that physicality, Colbert is a guy who can blend what we know about Norwell as a shooting team and also brings toughness and aggression.
It also helps that he had success on the football field this fall so he is going to want to keep that up and keep Norwell at the front of everyone’s mind. Colbert’s ability to lead combined with mixing his ability to defend spots 1-5 on the floor is about as crucial as it gets for Norwell.