Twinsburg boys basketball anticipates tip-off for big winter
Phil Schmook is prepared for a winter campaign that will have plenty of stops, starts, and last-minute adjustments due to COVID-19. Outside of developing a true team identity, the Twinsburg boys basketball team has loads of promise.
On paper, Twinsburg has quite a few of the boxes check marked.
The Tigers have some decent experience despite losing a strong senior class.
Twinsburg is athletic with a ton of speed and some versatility.
Defense and tempo are aspects that look to be in the Tigers’ favor while overall size is not. However, team chemistry has been challenged by a pre-season flooded with interruptions and safety measures.
Pre-season workouts, tryouts, and scrimmages have been adjusted and, in some cases, often negated, just like the off-season summer activities.
As the Twinsburg school district had a vote by the Twinsburg Board of Education to pause on all athletic and extracurricular activities until at least Dec. 7.
The possibility of moving forward will feature even more schedule changes, postponements, adjustments and patience.
In his fifth year at Twinsburg, Schmook is taking things one day at a time.
“We were stopped while tryouts were still being completed, thus, the roster is not set as fall sport athletes will be trying out upon the return to sports,” explained Schmook.
“Our guys haven’t been together since Nov. 10 and we still have to finalize selections for the team,” he added.
Twinsburg finished 16-8 last year and were among the top teams in the Suburban League.
“We have not been able to complete tryouts and did not have a summer season, thus at this point, we are unsure of the team identity we will possess,” pointed out Schmook.
“When we get back to the gym — our work will start,” said Schmook. “I know as a coach I always believe in my guys and we need to stress NO excuses and let’s get after it.”
Schmook also realizes that his athletes have had to work on their games on their own and conditioning needs to be maintained as well.
The coaching staff includes varsity assistant Bill Felberg, junior varsity coach John Temple and Vince Paolucci will lead the freshman group.
A good graduating class will be missed.
Do-it-all guard Ken McElrath was an honorable mention All-NEO Inland District Division I choice and made first-team All-Suburban League and will be missed along with Joey Plantner.
A guard and a top-3-point threat, Plantner made honorable mention All-District.
In addition, Twinsburg also lost 6-foot-5 post Ethan Golnick, a strong rebounder and shot blocker as well as veteran guard Josh Wanton, who had to battle health issues late in his career.
Twinsburg has three returning starters back in senior Dante’ Yarbrough and the dynamic junior duo of Anthony McCarthy and Reggie Bussey.
A 6-3 forward-guard, Yarbrough was an honorable mention All-District and all-league player. He averaged 10.1 points and 4.2 rebounds a game.
Yarbrough was a consistent wing, who can help out on the glass and also could step out and shoot the 3-pointer, or drive to the rim.
Having just as much experience is McCarthy, who is 6-2 wing with a good skill-set. Despite some nagging injuries in 2019, McCarthy hit for 6.1 points and 3.1 rebounds. He poured in 20 points in a game against Aurora last year.
Bussey came on strong last year as the Tigers needed other athletes to handle the ball. An athletic point guard, Bussey dished out 2.4 assists a game and showed plenty of potential on the offensive end.
“As always, I expect our team to be good,” noted Schmook, alluding to the club’s identity. “Our guys are tough, work hard, share the ball, defend, play extremely hard, and they are coachable.”
A trio of senior lettermen will play huge roles this winter – regardless of how many games the Tigers get in.
This trio includes Trevell Williams, P.J. Suggs, and Roman Sims. All three athletes played in the rotation last year and all three are versatile athletes.
Williams is a 6-1 guard, who can shoot from deep and play out on the wing as well. Williams exploded for a career high 15 points in a game last year against Youngstown East.
Suggs also showed flashes last season and continues to get better as a 6-3 wing, who can play anywhere on the court.
A rising athlete who opened some eyes at the 2020 NEO Youth Elite College Showcase, Suggs is a long athlete, who can handle the ball and excel in the transition game. He may prove to have a high ceiling and surprise this year.
Sims is a sturdy 6-4 athlete, who should get plenty of minutes in the post as he will look to rebound and defend. Sims also has potential to score as he netted seven points off the bench in a 2019 clash against league stronghold Stow-Munroe Falls.
Schmook likes the experience that his returning cast does bring and is also high on his underclassmen group, which has a small, but gifted junior class and a sophomore bundle that could be included in his always deep player rotation.
“At this time those guys are competing for spots,” noted Schmook, alluding to a talented corps of sophomores who competed mainly at the junior varsity level last year.
Although rosters still need to be finalized, as many as four or five sophomores could at times be in the mix for the Tiger’s player rotation!
That’s why team identity and trying to determine where all of these pieces will fit in is so critical to Schmook and his staff.
Twinsburg was 9-5 in the rugged Suburban League National Conference in 2019.
“I feel we can compete with anyone and battle for the league,” remarked Schmook. “Unfortunately, with the pandemic situation, everything can be very difficult.”
“We are going to be facing a tough battle as all of our conference members have been practicing and some, playing games from the start,” noted Schmook.
North Royalton, the defending SL National champions at 12-2, will still be formidable. League MVP and standout guard Omar Abuhamdeh is back for North Royalton.
Hudson (10-4 in the league) should also be good again along with Stow (8-6 in the league) and Brecksville (9-5). Wadsworth (3-11) and Nordonia (4-10) should be much improved as well as Cuyahoga Falls (1-13).
Last winter, Twinsburg had a lot of hopes for the post season, but ran into red-hot fifth-seed Barberton, which beat the fourth-seeded Tigers 73-57 at the sectional final of the Copley Division I sectional-district tournament.
This season, Schmook is just hoping his seniors can have a post season.