December — 2, at Salina South; 6, Campus; 9, at Goddard; 13, at Maize South; 16, Arkansas City.
January — 3, Andover; 10, Valley Center; 12-14, vs. TBA at Koch Arena; 13, at Eisenhower; 17, at Rose Hill (G); 19-21, at Chanute tournament (B); 24, at Rose Hill (B); 26-28, at Newton tournament (G).
February — 3, Goddard; 7, Maize South; 10, at Valley Center; 14, at Andover; 17, at Arkansas City; 21, Eisenhower; 23, Derby.
Coach: Jesse Herrmann, 16th season, 263-88
Last season: 20-5, third in Class 4A-I
Isaac Anthemides, 6-0, sr., G;
Easton Leedom, 6-2, so., G
Braden Belt, 5-10, so., G
Peter Henry, 6-0, sr., F
The Jaguars are storing up optimism for when they think they might need it.
With one returning starter – Anthemides – and a host of inexperienced players, Central is prepared for the possibility of an inconsistent start to the season. If that happens, Herrmann will fall back on what his team has shown in early practices.
“We are inexperienced, but I think we have some potential,” Herrmann said. “I think we have a chance to have a big learning curve this year and be potentially way better than we are at the beginning. The guys have been practicing pretty hard and getting after it. They want to be good.”
The Jaguars won’t drift away from what they’ve traditionally done well – shoot three-pointers. But the backbone of that philosophy, career three-point leader Cole Taylor, will miss the season after suffering a knee injury during football season.
Central will also miss Darraja Parnell, its former star now playing for Central Arkansas. He dominated possessions, and there are multiple ways to view his absence, since it could create more versatility.
“The ball is obviously not sticking with one guy very much this year,” Herrmann said. “It’s moving and we have to play as a team to have some success on offense. But we’ve got some good shooters, and we’ve got some guys that can get to the paint.
“Not a lot is going to change as far as what we do, but the ball will definitely probably be moving a little bit more.”
Coach: Stana Jefferson, 13th season, 222-60
Last season: 14-7
Jewell Bolden, 5-6, sr., G
Beth Schulte, 5-8, sr., F
Ryann Stearns, 5-9, jr., F
Alyssa Wesley, 5-3, sr., G
Jenna Peckham, 5-10, sr., F
Andover Central last won a state championship in 2010 with a speedy point guard, Tiffany Bias, who also was an elite sprinter.
The comparisons probably end there – Bolden lacks the pedigree of Bias, who has played three WNBA seasons – but Bolden, who transferred from Collegiate last year and has won multiple state hurdling championships, provides some callback to the Jaguars’ best years.
“It took us a little while – she and I have come a long way with each other in our relationship,” Jefferson said. “She is panned out this year. Her leadership is there right now.”
Bolden will guide an offense that includes plenty of experience. Schulte, Stearns and Peckham are strong scorers and Wesley can play both guard positions. Peckham, who missed most of last season with a concussion, may be primed for a breakthrough.
“We didn’t get much from her last year,” Jefferson said. “She’s pushing 6-foot right now. I’m banking on her, and she’s looking strong right now.”
The blend may take some time, though, because Bolden is still finding her footing after transferring and because Peckham was out for so much time.
“If we have good chemistry, I feel like we have a good foundation to win,” Jefferson said. “We have to play as a team and read each other and stay out of foul trouble. Depth is a problem right now. We’re trying to find depth.”