Despite heavy turnover, expectations still high at Center Grove

As an assistant coach with the Center Grove boys basketball team last winter, Kevin Stuckmeyer had the luxury of building game plans around 6-foot-8 Trayce Jackson-Davis.

He’ll have no such luck in his first season as the coach of the Trojan girls, who don’t have a single 6-footer on the roster — but Stuckmeyer isn’t complaining at all about what he’s inherited.

With a potential Indiana All-Star in Purdue-bound Cassidy Hardin and a solid backcourt tandem in Ella Thompson and Emma Utterback, Stuckmeyer believes he not only has talented players but also quality individuals.

“It’s been a very enjoyable transition, and it’s a tribute to (former coach Shawn) Sanders for the foundation he’s built and the culture that he’s built,” Stuckmeyer said, “but even more than that, the leaders and the great character girls that they have in the program.”

Story continues below gallery

Stuckmeyer plans to employ a system that will make use of the Trojans’ strengths on the perimeter while hopefully masking their lack of height, particularly in conference play.

“We don’t have much size,” Utterback said, “so we’re going to have to use our quickness and our basketball IQ. That’s how we’re going to win our games.”

An offense based largely on perpetual movement, heavy on screens and cuts, figures to create more open looks for the sharpshooting Hardin, who will attract plenty of attention from opposing defenses.

If teams place too much emphasis on Hardin, though, others are prepared to provide some scoring punch.

“I feel really confident that we will put (Hardin) in the best positions to be successful,” Stuckmeyer said, “but we will also be able to put others in positions to be successful and not be completely one-dimensional.”

“My teammates are definitely going to do everything they can to get me some shots,” Hardin added, “and I’m going to do the same for them.”

The Trojans will again have high expectations, and they’re undoubtedly hungry after last season ended with a surprisingly lopsided sectional loss at Martinsville.

Whether it takes a while for the team to hit its stride in the new system, it hasn’t taken long for Stuckmeyer to notice how competitive his new Center Grove team is.

“You can tell that they’re hungry for success and they hate to lose,” he said.

Scouting the Trojans

Head coach: Kevin Stuckmeyer

Last season: 14-9, lost to Martinsville in first round of sectional

Key returnees: Amy Davis, Sr., G; Karinna Frankel, Sr., F; Cassidy Hardin, Sr., G; Ella Thompson, Jr., G; Emma Utterback, Jr., G

Fresh faces: Ashley Eck, So., G; Alainna Frankel, So., G; Claire Rake, So., G; Emily Rake, So., G; Kylie Storm, Jr., F

Outlook: The Trojans will have to replace five seniors, including three starters, but they have a strong nucleus in place with Purdue recruit Hardin and returning guards Thompson and Utterback. Davis, a role player off the bench this year, will have to take on more, and the newcomers will have to log some important minutes. Life will again be tough for Center Grove in the loaded MIC, but this team should still contend for a county title and perhaps challenge favored Martinsville come sectional time.

Coachspeak: “Everybody in the program has a role, and that role is just as important as the girl that might score 20 a night. If they do their part, they’re going to feel just as much a part of it.” — Stuckmeyer

2017-18 schedule

Date;Opponent;Time

Oct. 31;at Plainfield;7:30 p.m.

Nov. 2;at Fishers;7:30 p.m.

Nov. 7;Brownsburg;7:30 p.m.

Nov. 10;Warren Central;7:30 p.m.

Nov. 14-18;Johnson County tournament;TBA

Nov. 28;Franklin;7:30 p.m.

Dec. 1;Lawrence Central;7:30 p.m.

Dec. 7;at Bloomington South;7:30 p.m.

Dec. 12;at Martinsville;7:30 p.m.

Dec. 16;at Pike;1:30 p.m.

Dec. 28-29;Columbus North tournament;TBA

Jan. 2;Whiteland;7:30 p.m.

Jan. 5;Carmel;7:30 p.m.

Jan. 11;at North Central;7:30 p.m.

Jan. 13;Roncalli;1:30 p.m.

Jan. 16;at Perry Meridian;7:30 p.m.

Jan. 20;at Ben Davis;1:30 p.m.

Jan. 23;Greenwood;7:30 p.m.

Jan. 26;Lawrence North;7:30 p.m.

Author photo
Ryan O'Leary is sports editor for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at roleary@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2715.