Expectations for the St. John boys’ basketball team are high. And they should be. The Tigers, who posted a 14-8 record last year before losing out to eventual state champion Ashland, return 90 percent of scoring and rebounding from five starters and eight letter-winners.
“We’re off to a very good start with practices,” said Coach Clint Kinnamon, back for his 12th year on the St. John sideline (179-79). “I’m pretty excited about our squad.”
The team has plenty of returning star power with four All-Central Prairie League selections from a year ago, but six-foot-one Spencer Nusser returns as the leader. The senior earned Class 1A Honorable Mention honors last season after averaging 13 points, six rebounds, and two steals a game.
Kinnamon also expects big things from junior Kade Kinnamon (5-11) and sophomore Dean Wade (6-7).
“Our guys really worked hard this summer on their skill set and athleticism,” Coach Kinnamon said. “Kade and Dean played AAU in July also which help improve them quite a bit.”
Last season, Kade Kinnamon put in valuable time at the guard position, making 41 percent of his three-point tries and finishing the year with a 3:1 turnover to assist ratio. That translated to eight points, four boards, four assists, and four steals a night. Wade missed half of his freshman campaign with an injury but finished strong to average nine points and six rebounds a game.
Junior Zuriel Reyes (5-10) also earned All-CPL honors a year ago with 13 points a game, including a 79 percent showing from the free throw line. Senior Ethan Long (6-1) returns as the fifth starter after scoring four points and grabbing four rebounds a game last season.
“We should have a nice inside/outside balance,” said Coach Kinnamon, who believes last year’s already dangerous three-point shooting should be better. “We have bigs that are skilled enough to score inside or out. I also like our perimeter guys’ ability to not only shoot from outside, and score in transition but go inside as well.”
The Tigers will also have a solid bench with three letter winners waiting in the wings. Seniors Fransisco Calleros (5-9, 3 ppg) and Omar Ramirez (5-8, 2 ppg) saw action last year, as did junior Trey Nelson (6-3, 2 ppg). Junior Jesus Alvarez (6-3) and sophomore Gera Calleros (5-9) are expected to make an impact this season.
Coach Kinnamon expects his team to be able to compete for a league title in a typically tough CPL featuring teams from Ness City, LaCrosse, and Central Plains.
“Our guys have all worked very hard for many summers in order to hopefully play good basketball under the lights in the winter,” Coach Kinnamon said. “Our best attribute may very well be the fact that they all like each other and none of them care who gets the credit, who had what amount of points and what not."
The Tigers open the 2012-13 campaign at home against Skyline on Nov. 30. From there they head to Larned’s Keady Classic for the first time, and return home for their own tournament on December 16.