By JIM MISUNAS
LARNED — Class 4A hasn’t been friendly to the Larned Indian boys basketball team. Two years ago, the Indians were denied a state berth in overtime by the Pratt Greenbacks. Last year, the Indians lost 64-39 to Hugoton. Class 4A-Division 2 state champion Holcomb won the Larned substate.
The Indians are thinking big after an impressive 14-7 (7-4 CKL) debut in the Central Kansas League. The Indians will compete in the Class 3A Lakin substate after competing the past four years in Class 4A.
“We have a group of seniors who are quality varsity players. We are expecting great things. We have a great opportunity to take the next step. We expect to be in the top three of our league,” said Larned coach Don Zimmerman. “I expect Hesston to be the team to beat. Pratt, Smoky Valley, and Sterling will field good squads. There is never an easy night in the CKL.”
Defensively, the Indians strategy will be based on sound, aggressive man-to-man principles.
“We should have the athleticism and experience to be a good full-court pressure team, but we’ll see if have the depth to sustain that style of play,” Zimmerman said. “We will be relatively small, but that’s nothing unusual for us.”
Point guards Isiah Perez and Evan Skelton will lead the Indians on the perimeter.
“With Evan Skelton and Isiah Perez we have two proven point guards who should be able to dictate tempo, make us very difficult to pressure, and they are also very skilled offensive players. We play our best when we play at a fast pace and this group really loves to run and attack the basket in transition.”
Perez brings a flair to the court.
“Isiah brings a great level of skill, experience, and leadership,” Zimmerman said. “He is very unselfish and the kind of leader that all the guys love to play with. He competes, has the ability to make plays on both ends of the floor, and is the calming influence that every good team needs.
“Evan Skelton is our energy guy, a skilled point guard who shoots the ball very well,” he said. “His best attribute is that he is always in up-tempo mode. He is very good at going up-and-down the floor.”
Tanner Galliart has grown and Trevor Meyer should be a reliable inside presence. Both excel when they are out in the open floor running in transition. Zimmerman said they can excel inside or outside.
“Tanner Galliart is a strong, athletic, 6-3 player who is fast and skilled on the perimeter and very strong and scrappy on the inside,” Zimmerman said. “Tanner is fiercely competitive and has always been the guy we count on to guard our opponents best player on the inside and to be a relentless rebounder. When Tanner is playing the way he is capable of, he’s one of the best rebounders, both offensively and defensively, that I’ve ever coached.”
Trevor Meyer has always been Larned’s hustle guy.
“He’s the player who dives for loose balls and runs down plays from behind,” Zimmerman said. “He has proven himself to be an effective inside threat and has expanded his game to include many perimeter skills.”
Don Zimmerman’s son, Jordan, will be a well-rounded player, who balances his floor game with good perimeter shooting.
“Jordan is possibly our most improved player and our best all-around athlete,” Zimmerman said. “He loves to attack the rim. He’s usually the guy who guards our opponent’s best perimeter player. He was effective at shutting down our opponent’s best players. He’s a greatly improved perimeter shooter.”
Zimmerman said he’s created a team-oriented style that the players have bought into.
“This makes us a difficult team to prepare for because teams cant key on one or two players,” he said. “We have multiple players who are capable of making game-winning plays. We have multiple proven players. Hard work, unselfishness, individual improvement, and putting all the pieces together will be the keys to having a successful season.”
Head coach — Don Zimmerman (4th, 33-31)
2014-15 record — 14-7 (7-4, 3rd)
Tanner Galliart, 6-3, sr.; Trevor Meyer, 6-2, sr.; Isiah Perez, 5-10, sr.; Evan Skelton, 5-8, sr.; Jordan Zimmerman, 6-1, sr.; Dalton Bright, 5-8, jr.; Patrick Doran, 6-2, jr.; Johnathan Herter, 6-2, jr.; Thomas Robinson, 6-1, jr.; Mason Schartz, 5-8, jr.; Alex Barger, 5-9, so.; Keelan Castro, 6-1, so.; Thomas Harmon, 5-9, so.; David Hutchins, 6-3, so.; Nicholas Orth, 5-10, so.; Alex Sanger, 5-10, so.; Colton Schmidt, 6-0, so.; Carson Smith, 5-7, so.; London Whittington, 6-3, so.; Dalton Penka, 5-8, fr.; Andrew Bright, 5-7, fr.; Jaylen Thomas, 5-9, fr.; Layton Pleasant, 5-8, fr.; Grant Frick, 5-6, fr.; Kody Mead, 6-0, fr.; Jacob Smith, 5-7, fr.; Cameron Murray, 5-8, fr.; Jason Anderson, 5-6, fr.
12-7—KIOWA COUNTY, GENE KEADY CLASSIC
12-10-12—GENE KEADY CLASSIC
1-5—at Smoky Valley
1-19-23—at St. John Mid-Winter Classic
2-29 to 3-5—at Class 3A substate