By Susan Harman
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – Stu Ordman has been here before. The veteran Regina boys basketball coach lost one of his top players to a football injury last year, and it happened again when Tommy Rapp was hurt this season.
Like Nick Phillips before him, Rapp was expected to provide not only scoring punch but leadership for the Regals.
“We just felt so bad for Tommy because he had shown such maturity and leadership last spring and summer in soccer and football and basketball,” Ordman said. “As talented as he is as a player he’s even more valuable for his leadership.
“But you see he’s here at practice trying to talk to the guys and help out, so that’s a great testimony to his character. And other people will just have to step up.”
Leading scorers Nate Stenger (17.2 ppg) and Andrew Adamec (10.6) graduated. The Regals (15-10 in 2015-16) are not without athletes, but few have varsity-level experience, and it will be a process to settle on a rotation and find answers in the post.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys, a lot of quick guys,” senior guard Jack Jensen said. “We’ll be able to run the court, play good defense, get some steals.”
Jocoa Kerschen, a 6-foot-2 junior, is the leading returning scorer (7.8 ppg). Senior Jake Phillips (6.1), senior Sam Stein (4.8), junior Ryne Schooley (4.3) and Jensen (2.5) all saw some minutes a year ago.
Ordman thinks the 5-11 Jensen could have a breakout season.
“He didn’t have a ton of minutes last year, but he had a great summer and did extremely well,” Ordman said. “I talked to him in May and we felt he had the potential to be an all-conference player if not an elite player, so we’re very excited. He had a fantastic football season, and we look for him to transfer that to basketball.”
Ordman is loath to label his players with a certain position.
“We try to be versatile,” he said. “Our ones, twos and threes, we like them to be interchangeable. So we just have to see how the match-up goes for specific games. We really like our guys to be as versatile as possible. We like our bigs to step out, and we like our perimeter players to be able to post up.”
Kerschen and Schooley, whom Ordman said are “extremely coachable,” are post or wing candidates although not centers.
“They recognize they need to be able play inside, and they need to play outside both,” Ordman said. “Because those two players were primarily perimeter players last year, but they’re going to have to work inside and outside for us to be successful.”
The Regals expect to get outside shooting from a group of players, but without having played in a real game yet Ordman was reluctant to specify anyone in particular.
“If we drive and kick I’ve got faith in a lot of guys,” Jensen said.
Jake Phillips and junior Zach Seaman have some experience handling the ball, but all of the Regal perimeter players will be expected to do their share.
What all this means is that Ordman will use his experience and wiles to craft lineups and put together an attack. But he will depend on his usual defensive system to keep the Regals afloat as positions sort themselves out through the season.
“We want pressure on the ball,” he said. “We want early help. And then if we’re good enough we’ll extend it.”
The Regals expect to contend for a conference championship in the River Valley South, and rival West Branch may be their primary obstacle.
“I expect us to get much better as the season goes on,” Ordman said. “Not only because of the improvement of the team, but because of the character of the men on the team.”