The De Soto boys basketball team has six top players who are returning to the court this season, and they all have two to three years of varsity experience.
The players are Isaiah Zink guard, Brock Venner guard, Riggin Beck forward, Grant Chapes guard, Dylan Chapes forward and Evan Overby forward.
Brandon Ihrcke, who is entering his fourth year as the head coach at De Soto High School, said the team’s strength will be that experience.
“We have guys who know our system, what we expect, and how hard they need to play,” Ihrcke said. “These guys have won a lot of games together, and they hold each other to a high standard.”
The Pirates, who finished 14-9 last season, do have a challenge — size.
“We aren’t very big, so we are going to have to find a way to be one and done on the defensive glass and then find a way to scrap together some second chances on the offensive side of the ball,” Ihrcke said.
Ihrcke said each year the team has a theme for the season.
“This year our theme is ‘Reflect and Rise’,” he said. “Our hopes are that we are able to reflect on both the positives and the negatives from each practice and game, and are able to rise as a team,” he said. “As far as goals go, we want to get better each and every day. Obviously we want to win a conference championship and make a run in the playoffs.”
The Pirates lost key players Conner Clements, Austin Anderson, Drew Foley and Ryan Lagerman to graduation.
“I believe our season looks promising,” Ihrcke said. “We have had a lot of kids put a lot of work in over the summer months and I believe that will help us continue to grow. I believe in the system we have in place, and I believe in each player in our program. As far as overcoming key position losses, we have kids at each position with varsity experience. I don’t believe the stage will be too big for anyone. We need to trust in our preparation and trust in the things that have gotten us to the point.
Who will be the top contenders for the conference title?
“In my opinion, the conference title is going to be up for grabs,” Ihrcke said. “Seneca has been great the last few years, Wauzeka-Steuben brings everyone back, Ithaca has always been in the hunt and Kickapoo has some good pieces in place. I would hope that we are right in the middle of the hunt, and give ourselves a chance to win it.”
Ihrcke is assisted by Gary Beck.
The Pirates opened their season at Riverdale Nov. 21 and hosted their first home game Nov. 27.