Eagles Head Into Season With New-Look Roster

Following an exodus of seniors from last season’s district championship squad, the opportunity is there for a new group of players to create their mark.

Sullivan returns just two key contributors — Jacob Hatcher and Joshua Wiese. However, head coach Dino McKinney said expectations haven’t changed.

“We told our kids we want to compete for the Four Rivers Conference and the district,” said McKinney, who has overseen one of the area’s steadiest programs.

He acknowledged there may be some growing pains as the schedule doesn’t give them much breathing room. The intensity went up to challenge last year’s group of players.

Sullivan will import the bulk of a junior varsity team that went 23-2 last season.

Area coaches seem wary of a slump: the Eagles were picked to finish third in the Four Rivers Conference behind St. James and Hermann. Both teams won their respective districts last season and have more returning starters than Sullivan.

The Eagles received two second-place, four third-place and one fourth-place vote.

Sullivan also is seeded third in the sixth annual FCNB Bank It Tournament that tips off December 2. 

St. James and defending champion Farmington garnered the top two seeds.

McKinney said having a good junior varsity team helps, but making that leap is tough.

Early on, the Eagles will look to Hatcher and Wiese for leadership.

“Hatcher played some good minutes down the stretch last year and both gave us some quality minutes as sophomores,” McKinney said. 

Offensively, Sullivan will look to fill it up beyond the arc and add a post presence with forward Kolten Keen.

“We’ll still be a good shooting team,” McKinney said. “Those kids have been pretty good shooters. Keen has been making good strides, so between him and Hatcher we should have more of an inside presence.”

Last season Sullivan launched 707 3-point attempts and 419 of those were taken by Cody McKinney and Landon Hoffman, both of whom graduated.

Sullivan will count on seniors Austin Orick and Dallas Blankenship and junior guards Owen Farrell, Dillon Farrell, Noah Stegeman and Jordan Woodcock come into their own.

Logan Kilburn is the only sophomore listed on the varsity roster.

Even though the Eagles lacked prominent size a year ago, they were able to hold opponents under 50 points per game. McKinney said defense is something the team prides itself on and said it will look a little different.

“We’re not going to be as quick, but I think we can keep the score where we want it to be,” he said. 

Sullivan was able to neutralize opponents and frustrate them with their ability to draw charging fouls. McKinney described that as something of an “art form” and that the players have to step up if they want to carry on that mantle.

“It takes a lot of guts to stand in there,” he said.

The Eagles have been consistent since McKinney took over the program in 2011-2012. Sullivan has won 147 games under McKinney and the program hasn’t experienced a losing season since 2005-2006.

With the season less than a week away, McKinney said he believes the team can play with anyone on their schedule, but also lose to anyone the schedule. 

Sullivan has went into seasons past with inexperienced rosters before, but they haven’t quite faced turnover like this. 

With hard work, McKinney said the Eagles will be able to realize their potential.

Sullivan gets St. Clair in the first round of the FNCB Bank It Tournament on Tuesday, December 3 at 7 p.m.

Sullivan Independent News

Sullivan Independent News
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