Matt Cash is well aware that the Suburban League National Conference will be a minefield this season in boys basketball.
"Wadsworth, North Royalton, Hudson, Brecksville-Broadview Heights and Stow-Munroe Falls are all going to be really good," said the Nordonia head coach. "Cuyahoga Falls returns a lot of kids.
"The conference is going to be wide open because everybody is talented and loaded."
Cash believes that, if things go his team’s way and the Knights avoid injuries, Nordonia has as good a shot of winning the National Conference as any team.
"If we come out playing like we played down the stretch last year and continue to develop, we’ve got a shot," he said.
Last season, the Knights got hot toward the end of the season but still finished 10-13 overall and 6-8 in the conference. Seven of their defeats were by a total of 14 points, however.
Nordonia will try to withstand the losses to graduation last spring of Alec Broscheid, Ben Broscheid, Mitch Ehrman, Tye Evans, Kyle Craft, Spencer Harp and Drew Petros. Six returning lettermen will help.
"We’re going to be a pressing-style basketball team," said Cash. "We have athletic players, but that’s just the style we play. We don’t slow it down.
"Because of the style of basketball that we play, we need 10-12 guys to get minutes because we’re up tempo for 32 minutes."
Leading the way for Nordonia will be senior guard Julius Jones.
"Julius needs to be a huge contributor because he’s athletic, handles the ball well and sees the floor," Cash said. "He’s a good shooter, too."
Three other guards will be seniors Evan Wiehe, Gabe Byrd and Jordan Jones, Julius’ twin brother.
"Evan is our best outside and three-point shooting threat," said the coach. "He’s also developed the ability to go to the hole because teams are going to try to take away his outside shot. He’s going to be huge for us.
"Gabe worked real hard last summer. He came on towards the end of last year for us. We expect that to continue and expect him to have an even bigger season this year.
"Jordan is an athletic freak, specimen, whatever you want to call him. He worked on his shot last summer, but he’s got to use his athleticism in our press to get easy layups. He rebounds well and does all the dirty work for us, too."
Leading the way underneath will be senior forward Robby Levak, senior center/forward Harry Harris and senior center/forward Justin Byrd, Gabe’s cousin.
"Robby does all the little things that you ask him to do," said Cash. "He’s never going to say no. If you want him to guard a 6-8 post player, he’s going to guard a 6-8 post player. He’s our glue guy who’s going to hold us together. He’s undersized, but he’s very physical and gets in there and gets after it.
"Harry had a rough season last year. He hurt his knee in our very first practice and didn’t come back until January. He had a good offseason, though. He needs to develop and be our inside presence.
"Justin is a move-in, a transfer from Aurora. He’s very athletic but raw. He needs to learn what we’re doing, but we expect big things from him."
Other key contributors will be sophomores Jordan Massey and Joel Jones, junior Josh Malone and freshman John Henderson.
Also on the team will be juniors Luke Jackson, Logan Jankowski, Clay McMillian and Robert Watson.
Cash’s assistant coaches will be Bill Cash, Dave Smith, Don Springer, Shaun Phillips and Kezmei Spencer.
Nordonia is scheduled to open the season at Mayfield Nov. 30 at 7:30 p.m. The Knights are set to host Green Dec. 4 at 7:30 p.m.