Coming off a 13-12 season where they were a bit surprisingly at the upper end of the SAC with a 6-3 mark, Concordia will return their entire lineup for the 2022-2023 season. That is never a bad thing for fifth year head coach Phil Brackmann as he continues to build the Cadets to true SAC title contender.
“I will be interested to see if we can get over the hump of playing to the level of our competition. I feel like we were taken for granted by some teams the last 2 years, but we won’t have that luxury this season,” Brackmann said. “Making sure that we are playing solid, team basketball and sustaining that level of play for an entire game will be something we stress this season. Having that mental toughness to withstand the ups and downs of a long basketball season will be important.”
The head of the snake for Concordia is their junior class with two very good prospects in Ajani Washington and Cole Hayworth. While Washington broke out in his freshman year, Hayworth was one of the underclassmen in the SAC that grabbed new attention. the most last season.
Washington led Concordia in scoring with 19.7 points per game and has some brilliant performances a year ago, including 40 in the season opener against Leo. Washington also averaged 4.8 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game. It has him in line as a possible Indiana Junior All-Star candidate this season if things go well.
Hayworth (10.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg) became a big inside and even an above the rim threat last season, but one that can still float out and shoot the three ball well to spread out the court, especially with some bigger upperclassmen able to handle the post at times.
As good as the junior class is, returning six guys with good varsity experience for the senior class this season is huge for Concordia. David Speckhard leads that group after averaging 7.8 points and four rebounds last season. Speckhard shot 39 percent from three last season as well. Alan Ter Molen (4.9 ppg, 3.3 reg) will be a help inside for the Cadets.
Concordia will also return Grant Hayworth, James Rusher, Joe Tapp and Ulysses Jackson to the senior class.
“We are really excited about this year. We played young the last 2 seasons, so it will be nice to have a lot of experience on the floor,” Brackmann said. “This senior group has really bought into what we were trying to build from the start, so it will be a fun ride with them during their final season. We will rely on that leadership and experience a lot this season.”
Avery Cook (3.3 ppg) is back as well and Concordia adds Khayln Williams-Thomas as the pair of sophomores will bolster the Concordia backcourt. Cook saw a good chunk of minutes while Williams-Thomas saw limited time but is expected to be a bigger part of the lineup this season.
With everybody back in the fold, Concordia is set to make major waves this season. The Cadets didn’t lose anyone and have a mature group who have been toiling on the varsity level for multiple years at this point.
There is a high level of confidence in Concordia to contend at the top of the conference because of their ability to play a variety of styles and still find success.
WHY NOT HIGHER?
Like with some other teams in the SAC that are expected to compete for a title, the Cadets have the hype and substance but they also have not won the big games or been at the forefront the conference yet. So until they do, it is hard to push Concordia higher up the list.
January 27 at North Side
There are a lot of good games for Concordia before we get to the end of January, but this game feels different. Two of the best teams, or expected best teams, in the SAC and the fact they are a five minute drive from each other just makes it feel different.
They also boast two of the best players in the area in Class of 2024 players with Ajani Washington against Brauntae Johnson and after a summer playing together with Indy Heat, they know each others games even better.
This should be a fantastic showcase game.
Khalyn Williams-Thomas, Sophomore
For as many returners as Concordia has, this newcomer to the lineup could be a difference maker in their run for a SAC title. Williams-Thomas is a very gritty and all out player on the perimeter.
He can score and add to an already loaded offense, but the reality is that he can be pesky enough to really. change how things happen defensively for the Cadets.
As a sophomore in an lineup full of experience, Williams-Thomas will get the appropriate time to grow as a player, which is great. That said, there are certainly scenarios where he is able to make a difference immediately.