We’re here. We’ve made it. The 2011-2012 Lancer boys’ basketball season is underway. Well, almost. I may be jumping the gun a bit. After all, you might say that tonight’s game was just a meaningless scrimmage. The record books suggest that you’d be right.
I’m writing this to say you’d be dead wrong.
Tonight’s game between the varsity and junior varsity teams was far more than a scrimmage. It was a coming out party. A show. An answer to the prayers of many a committed Lancer basketball fan.
We looked good. We looked damn good. Varsity trumped JV, breaking a two-year streak of close games between the two squads that in the past forbade disastrous seasons for the varsity teams. Tonight’s game went the way it should have gone. A good varsity team should be significantly better, stronger, faster than their JV teammates. There should be a clear reason why one team plays in the spotlight and the other plays while the fans shuffle into the gym, and tonight, the distinction between the two teams was as clear as I’ve seen it during my time at East.
Now, please, don’t get me wrong: our JV team is going to be no slouch. Many of our JV players would definitely have spots, even starting spots, on other varsity teams in the sunflower league. My point is that our varsity team is just that good. Sure, they’ve got some kinks they need to work out, but they look good.
Why do they look good?
The number of times we (Harbinger or smeharbinger.net) have written about Vance Wentz is simply annoying. But we haven’t had any other choice. He’s just been too good not to write about. I pledged to myself before the season that I would try to lighten up on the Vance Wentz talk, but here I am, not even on the first game of the season yet, and I’m already raving about the kid.
If tonight was any indication, Vance will become the star East needs him to be this season. He dominated the game, scoring 27 points on 10-11 shooting and 5-6 from three in a shortened game. 10-11! 5-6! 27 points! In a shortened game!
Hold on… let me compose myself. All right, I’m good.
These are star numbers. He looked way beyond where he was last season as far as development goes. I’ve honestly had my doubts over whether he really would meet the hype in the second half of his high school career, but it looks like he actually might. He looked way better tonight than last year, and he was Sophomore of the Year in the Sunflower League last year.
He wasn’t alone. The whole varsity squad looked impressive. Billy Sutherland caught my eye, showcasing much needed improvements on his inside touch with a couple of plays down low. He even used his left hand! And in warm-ups, I couldn’t help but notice that his dunking looks so much cleaner now than last year. In fact, the entire team’s dunking looks better than last year. There are six players on the 20-man combined JV and Varsity roster that reportedly can dunk: Sutherland, Zach Schneider, Vance, Chris Tuttle (he’s six-foot-six, he’d better be able to dunk), Lucas Jones (a freshman!) and Connor Knabe (a point guard!). The Lancers actually have mad hops this year. Damn it feels good to say that.
Also, the increased tempo of the Lancers’ offense allows them to better showcase their athleticism this year. The game was exciting to watch, and not just because I love high school basketball and I know all the players. I couldn’t say that about almost any of the games we played last year or the year before. Too much slow, high school offense with very few shots being taken. The Lancer fast break makes them actually a fun team to watch.
I left the gym tonight feeling a feeling that I seldom associate with Lancer basketball: confidence. Our stacked class of 2013 is finally growing up and becoming the stars I always hyped them up to be. And the seniors looked very strong too, worthy of leading this strong team. They’re already transcending my expectations for them as a class.
Not everyone is there yet, but we’re getting close to something really special. This is the season where stars have to develop and become leaders. This is the season where we have to (and probably will) get some postseason experience. Yes, this season is going to be fun to watch.
As the members of the two squads would say:
#Enjoy the show.
-Matt Hanson, (Former) B-team bench-warmer and (current) devoted fan