The Lions are coming off a three-year run that has featured a couple of deep tournament runs. Leo has won three straight sectional titles, two regional championships and one state finals appearance in the last three seasons.
For more postseason success to occur this season, it will take a lot of new players taking on new roles and thriving in them. Leo graduated eight seniors off last year’s team and have two varsity returners.
Juniors Trey Hiteshew and Jackson McGee are both back after being key contributors in the Lions run to semistate a season ago. Both hit critical shots to keep their team in that game against Mishawaka Marian and both will look to do so in every game this season.
“Our program won’t have a lot of players with varsity minutes other than Trey Hiteshew and Jackson McGee. Those two gained a lot of big game experience last year but will need to step into bigger roles,” Leo coach Cary Cogdell said.
Hiteshew is a player any team would love to have. He can put the ball on the floor and finish near the rim. He’s also a strong defender that can shut down opposing guards. Hiteshew averaged seven points and 2.4 rebounds per game last season.
McGee has shown the capability to be a knock down outside shooter, but he’s also worked on his inside game as well. During the summer, he displayed a willingness to battle in the paint and grab some rebounds. He’ll have to do more of that while the Lions get things figured out in the post. During the 2021-22 season, he averaged seven points and 2.1 boards a game.
Both Hiteshew and McGee can play off each other well and both will have to carry the team while the rest of the roster gets acclimated to the varsity level.
Sophomore Solomon Richard will be another guard the Lions can rely on to handle and distribute the ball. In the post, Luke Shappell might be the most ready to play a lot of minutes while Eli LaGrange, Brock Schott and Tyler Nehls will battle for time. Schott has a lot of size and had it on display during a successful football campaign.
“It will take us some time to develop good chemistry. We expect to see growth as the season progresses. Hopefully, our defense is good enough to help us be competitive early. It might take a little longer for guys to get comfortable offensively,” Cogdell said.
As a program under Cogdell, Leo has shown it can mix in younger talent with some returners and continue to play at a high level. This season might be a little different in how its constructed compared to years past but the Lions show a lot of promise.
WHY NOT HIGHER?
They have what you want in terms of go-to scorers, but their depth could be an issue. With every player taking on a new role, it could take some time to see this team come together. They should still be solid on the defensive end, but the Lions could struggle to score outside of Hiteshew and McGee.
Jan. 7 vs. Norwell
We could have some a number of games before this one but this will be the point of where we see Leo’s season going. They might struggle against some of the better teams in the first month of their schedule, but hopefully by this matchup, the Lions have figured out their rotation and who some other scoring options are.
Jackson McGee, junior
The Lions will go as McGee goes. The junior has worked on his game quite a bit and we know he’s a really good shooter. If the other parts of his game have improved where we think they have, then McGee could be hard to stop on any given night, which should make Leo tough to beat.