To say the first year under Coach Ryan Abbott at Carroll was a disappointment would be an understatement. After so much success under former coach Marty Beasley, the two-win season caught many off guard.
But it wasn’t a lost season – not by any means. To Abbott, last year’s struggles and trial by fire for an inexperienced roster is expected to pay dividends for the Chargers in Year 2.
“With five returning letter winners, we have experience at the varsity level,” Abbott said. “This experience played in many close games last year.”
Abbott is right in that while the wins weren’t there a season ago, the competitiveness was. Carroll lost seven games decided by six points or less last year, including overtime losses to Wayne, DeKalb and Indianapolis North Central.
The Chargers return all of its primary players, paced by leading scorer Cannen Houser. The junior guard averaged 14.5 points per game last season and showcased his versatility in grabbing two rebounds and adding a pair of assists per contest.
“Cannen’s combination of length and skill is tremendous,” Abbott said. “His work ethic on his offensive skills was evident last year and his commitment to defense and rebounding in the offseason has been outstanding.
“His well-rounded play will be a key to our team’s success this year.”
Fellow junior guard Jaxon Pardon is also back after chipping in 12.8 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.0 assists in his junior campaign.
“Jaxon is a competitor,” Abbott said. “Successful basketball players play hard, but Jaxon is able to take playing hard to another level. He took 13 charges last season…and is a player who is diving on the floor day in and day out to give his team a chance to win.”
A pair of seniors will be looked upon to step up to lead in Andrew Sinish and Charlie Rudolph. Sinish was one of the more underrated forwards in the Summit Athletic Conference last season with 10.1 points and 7.9 rebounds a game. Rudolph, a guard, averaged 3.5 points but connected on 38 percent of his three-point attempts.
Abbott is looking for more contributors on the offensive end, with junior Grant Peters (0.8 ppg, 1.7 rpg) and sophomore Jaiyre Sampson (1.7 ppg, 1.4 rpg, 1.9 apg) both prime breakout candidates at least when it comes to secondary scoring.
Among the newcomers, junior forward Lane Outten could be a solid, physical contributor when it comes to rebounding and intangibles. Other players to watch include junior guard Derek Lanning and sophomore guard Drelyn Truesdale.
“We’ll need to focus on the defensive end, team rebounding with our lack of size and sharing the basketball to utilize our multiple threats in order to be successful,” Abbott said.
Once again, the early-season schedule is unkind with five road games in the first eight and home contests against the likes of Norwell, Penn and Columbia City – all teams that won 17 or more games a year ago. However, the schedule could be adjusted somewhat with the success of the football program.
With so many questions in regards to who will ascend to the top of the area this year, there is some credence in believing that a team that returns a lot of production can be a factor – even if that team finished 2-21 one year ago.
The SAC is wide open. Teams that have the most talent on paper may not necessarily be the top squads over the course of the regular season. Abbott has a proven track record of success in his time at Eastside. Expect a significant step forward with this program in his second year.
WHY NOT HIGHER?
Even with a lot of experience back, there are a lot of questions. Carroll lacks much in the way of size in the post, usually a strength for the Chargers. The defensive intensity must take a significant step forward, with the 63 points per game allowed last year the most for the program in close to 30 years. And does this roster have a bona fide floor general that can command the offense and facilitate?
Dec. 9 at Concordia
Dec. 16 at Wayne
Carroll picked up just a single conference victory last year – over Bishop Luers. Two of the teams expected to compete for the SAC championship just so happen to be the Chargers’ first two league opponents, and both are on the road.
Carroll competed well with both the Cadets and Generals last season, losing by six to each with the defeat to Wayne coming in overtime.
If the Chargers are to make a jump in the league standings, it needs to show that it can challenge the upper echelon of teams. Carroll doesn’t necessarily need to win both of these, or even one of them. It just needs to raise some eyebrows and show the city that it’s on the way back to being a contender.
Jaxon Pardon, junior, guard
This program’s modus operandi under former coach Marty Beasley was a hard-working, blue-collar squad that was going to make life miserable for you defensively.
Pardon is that type of player. His grit and determination can go a long way towards setting the tone for this team. The Chargers are lacking true star power in the lineup, similar to many of those Beasley-coached squads that were a player in the SAC. That can be a thing again in Huntertown, and it starts with guys like Pardon.