Hype is in the air at Wayne.
Could this be the official comeback year of Generals basketball? It sure feels like it as Wayne lost exactly zero players to graduation and has one of the most exciting lineups of athletes in the area in some time.
Coach Byron Pickens has been building the program up and now has a really stellar spread of seniors, juniors and sophomores to build on. The group is so exciting that even coming off a 4-18 season, many have Wayne pegged as a top contender in the always tough to win SAC.
“Our number one goal is to get better everyday. We expect our men to compete at a very high level this season,” Pickens said. “We have matured and have a year of varsity basketball under our belts.”
Senior Monte Smith is coming off one of the best offseasons in the area as a big time defender and natural scorer. He averaged eight points and three rebounds per game and will be a big leader for a team that still doesn’t have a lot of seniors on it. Joining him in the senior class of returners are MJ Lee (5.7 ppg) and Jamarious Eldridge (2 ppg). Lee’s 2.7 assists per game was a high for Wayne in 2021-22.
Wayne’s junior class is headed up by returning leading scorer Jevon Lewis, as well as Ziare Sullivan. Sullivan is an underrated rebounder, who averaged a team second best 5.1 rebounds per game last season. Lewis is a top tier scorer who shoots the ball well and can work anywhere in the backcourt that the Generals need him. Lewis averaged 17.3 points and 2.4 assists per game last season.
The sophomore group at Wayne has two of the best Class of 2025 players in Northeast Indiana with Chase Barnes and Trey Dillard. Barnes averaged a team second best 11.1 points per game last season and has already drawn interest from Division I coaches to play on the next level. Dillard has a soft touch inside but rebounds aggressively still, leading the Generals with 10.8 rebounds per game last season, also averaging 9.5 points per game.
Marquis Douglas, Preston Comer and Kharrington Terry all joined the lineup to add even more extreme depth to the Generals.
“This group is amazing to coach. They work hard and love each other. I cannot wait to see it show on the court,” Pickens said.
Does hype play a role? Of course it does. There is more hype for Wayne than almost any team in any conference in the area this season.
But there is substance to go with it. Wayne’s young core was exciting last year, even with a not so great record. Many of those players went on to have some of the best summers in the area and the recognition they got for that was well deserved.
There is a lot of talent walking the hallways at Wayne High School and one of the best young coaches in the area on the sideline. Hype is real, so us substance.
WHY NOT HIGHER
The Generals have yet to prove that they can live up to the hype. So while so many are excited to see how they do this season, to get them higher throughout the season in a power poll, the Generals will have to win in a variety of ways.
They will need to win the big games and tough games and they will also have some games on the schedule they should just run away with. Until there are tangible results, the Generals feel great at five.
December 16 vs. Carroll
This is a game that will pit two of the low end SAC teams from a year ago against each other. Normally, just that on paper means its not a good game. But they are also expected to be two of the breakout teams in the SAC this season, meaning early footing is important. It also means that one team can avoid a SAC loss here and while one loss may not break you in the conference this season, nobody wants to drop one in December.
Last year, Wayne won the game 55-49 in overtime in one of the better games in the conference all season. It was also the Generals’ only SAC win.
This is an important place to start even if it is not Wayne’s first SAC game of the season.
Preston Comer, Sophomore
Comer joins this Generals lineup as another post presence that could really help them lock down the interior any given night alongside Dillard. Comer is not going to be an overpowering force right now but he is a very intelligent rebounder and has good energy.
If he can bring you 6 and 8 every night, it makes it very hard for teams to matchup with the Wayne interior. If he brings more to the table nightly, then it is safe to say that Wayne could have the two most consistent posts most nights.
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