SPRINGFIELD TWP. Becoming a true contender takes more than just confidence.
If the Springfield Spartans are going to make the jump for which they hope and plant their feet firmly among the contenders for the Portage Trail Conference Metro Division title, they know that the time has come to start delivering results.
The past two seasons have been largely about building a good foundation for what they hope will be a revived program and as the current season heats up, senior forward Brody Carper and his teammates want to make sure they continue the building process and see it through to the next stage.
"We had a little struggle in our first game … a few mishaps and we just didn’t mesh right," Carper said. "But we have seven seniors, six returning ones, and some really good juniors coming up who have started a few games, so we want to be a contender."
Carper noted that right now, the team is a bit further ahead on the defensive end than they are on offense, although competing for a league title will necessitate strong play on both ends of the floor. Part of that strong play is the team’s front court, of which the 6-foot-3 Carper is a big part.
Having playing on the offensive line for the Springfield football team throughout high school in addition to playing basketball, Carper uses his size and strength in his favor and applies some of the same aggressiveness that serves him well in football to the hardwood.
"What I’ll do is when I’m trying to get my guards open, I’ll use my strength to set a screen, and also with rebounding, I try low and explode up and help my teammates by blocking the other team’s biggest guy out, just push him away from the basket.
Carper noted that the front court of he, Tyler Dawson, Andrew Smith and DeMone Riley each brings something different to the mix. Carper provides strength and bulk, while Smith is a 6-foot-6 player with long arms and good shot blocking ability.
Smith, who joined the program last season, showed some solid post moves as a sophomore and figures to be an important piece of the puzzle this year. Dawson is a player who brings good energy to the floor and complements Smith and Carper well, while Riley is a long, lanky athlete with good versatility and leaping ability.
"DeMone can play almost any position on the floor and he’s one of our fastest guys and highest jumpers," Carper said.
Carper also pointed to Dawson’s efforts in getting back on defense and helping organize the rest of the defense once the Spartans get into the half court. An interesting dynamic, because it is rare for all four players to be on the court at the same time, comes in practice.
Knowing that they all want to earn more playing time and be on the floor as much as possible, Carper, Smith, Dawson and Riley battle each other in practice in an effort to claim more minutes in the front court.
"It’s very good to know because it makes us a lot more competitive against each other," Carper said. "We go against each other in practice and we’re going against each other for playing time, which brings us closer together as well, making us all better than what we would be, and we are going to be better because of that."
Having a deeper, stronger front court with a strong internal competition should be a good starting point for Springfield this season, but the goal is not to remain at that starting point, but rather to take the growth process forward into its next stage and become a contender for the first time in several seasons.
Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
On Twitter: @aharrisBURB