Basketball season is still on despite schools throughout the county going to remote learning this month — but the pandemic continues to take its toll on Fort Wayne programs, and Carroll is no exception.
The Chargers are scheduled to host Norwell on Nov. 25. As of Nov. 16, Carroll expected at least one player to be missing from the roster during its home opener, with senior Ryan Preston — one of several players expected to make an impact this season — coming back from quarantine.
“That’s a big piece to our puzzle,” Carroll Head Coach Marty Beasley said. “We’re hoping we don’t lose anybody else to a situation like that and we don’t lose too many games, but we can’t control it so we’ve got to make every day count.”
Barring any more setbacks from contact tracing, Beasley is expecting big things from players stepping up to fill the shoes of 2020 graduates Richie Gross, Ray Vollmer, Seth Kock and Micah Kirk.
Gross was one of Carroll’s top scorers last season with 10.5 points per game while averaging 5.2 rebounds. Vollmer, a point guard, dished out 2.7 assists per game last season while averaging nearly seven points and three rebounds.
“Ritchie, Ray, Seth and Micah did a lot of things for us off the court, and we have to find guys to pick up those pieces — leadership-wise behind the scenes, leadership-wise on the court, ability-wise — and I think our program is such that guys look to step in and play their part to take care of things,” Beasley said. “We’re hoping that we can maybe push the ball a little bit more this year with a couple better athletes than we’ve had, and see if we can get down the floor a little bit more.”
The team returns its 2019-20 leading scorer and rebounder in junior Jalen Jackson (11.8 points per game, 5.6 rebounds per game), who scored 57% of his field goals last season. Preston had 9.8 points and 3.6 rebounds per game last season, while making a team-high 42 three-pointers and leading in free-throw percentage (82%). Cody Burkey, returning as a senior this year, made 39 baskets from beyond the arc last season.
“I think guys like Jalen and Ryan have really developed their ability to drive a little more like Ritchie did and handle the ball better like Ray did,” Beasley said, “and Cody Burkey’s obviously going to get a lot more minutes now — he can really shoot the basketball.”
Senior Sam Strycker, who was utilized regularly in the post last season, averaged 9.3 points and 5.7 rebounds per game last season while also scoring 36 points from three. He also led the team in blocks.
“We’re going to move Sam out on the perimeter more because he can shoot it pretty well, and we’ve got a nice addition in Cam Hedgecock from the football team,” Beasley said. “He played in our system in middle school and then he went to Luers. He’s not really played, but he’s very solid and he can handle it with great vision, reads the floor well, and I think he’s going to fit in nicely.”
Beasley also expects Zach Castator — a 6’4 forward last year — to make an impact in his senior season.
“Zach Castator is one of our most athletic kids we have,” Beasley said. “He’s long and athletic, and he’s hopefully going to be able to get out and run a little bit, and he can shoot it.”
Carroll’s home opener against Norwell is scheduled for 7 p.m. The team will host Penn in a doubleheader Saturday and travel to East Noble on Dec. 5. The team will start conference play Dec. 11 at Concordia.
“We’re trying to implement the stuff we’re going to run and working on our defense a little bit. We have to get guys to play a little more in space and try to utilize their strengths,” Beasley said.