Bill Gavers knows how his Grand Island Central Catholic team needs to play this season.
“We need to play inside-out,” Gavers said. “We need to understand our inside players can score. People start taking them away and our guards have to knock down shots. We definitely need to play inside-out.”
The Crusaders return three starters from last year’s 10-13 game, and two of them are inside-type players. Yohanna Ghaifan, a 6-foot-4 sophomore, and 6-2 senior Riley Shoemaker should give GICC a strong inside game.
“Our inside players, Yohanna and Riley Shoemaker, they’re a nice nucleus inside,” Gavers said. “They’re strong, they’re skilled. Our guards are really working hard. Guard play is going to be critical for us. We have to take care of the ball, get it where it needs to go and knock down some shots. That’s coming along too.
“We’re piecing it together. We’re getting better every day.”
Ghaifan came off the bench early last year as a freshman, but eventually moved into the starting lineup. Gavers expects even better things from him this season.
“Yohanna has really developed,” Gavers said. “He’s always been big and strong, but he’s dropped 20 pounds. He’s come in in better shape. His maturity level is higher. His footwork in the post and his hands are good. If we can get him the ball where we want to get it to him, he’s awfully difficult to deal with.”
The big thing Ghaifan has done is improve his free-throw shooting.
“He’s going to get fouled a lot. Last year he was not a good free-throw shooter,” Gavers said. “This year, that is coming. He put some time in and has his technique down. That’s going to be big because he can get to the line an awful lot.”
Shoemaker is GICC‘s most experienced player.
“Riley is just really physical and athletic,” Gavers said. “He shoots it well from the perimeter. He’s an excellent rebounder and gives us some versatility defensively. He can go out and guard a point guard, guard a wing, guard a big.”
Trevor Holen, a 6-5 senior, will provide back up off the bench for the starters up front.
The guard situation is not quite so clear for the Crusaders. Junior Phoenix Stevenson, sophomore Brady Brokaw and senior Derrick Broekemier all started at times a year ago.
Gavers said sophomores Tate Heidelk, John Rohweder and Brett Wiens could all see playing time along with seniors Grant Harding and Jackson Buck.
Whoever doesn’t start will come off the bench when needed.
“We’re going to need to develop some guys off the bench who can come in and execute the things we need off the bench, namely defense and rebounding and distribute the ball where it needs to go,” Gavers said.
The Centennial Conference will once again be challenging for the Crusaders. Since 2000, Centennial Conference teams have eight Class C-1 state titles two Class C-2 championships.
“It’s always competitive,” Gavers said. “It will get you ready for the postseason.”
The postseason will start for GICC with Class C-1, Subdistrict 6 play at Aurora. Other teams in that subdistrict are Adams Central, Central City and Sandy Creek.
The other side of the district consists of Centennial, Fairbury, Fillmore Central, Milford and Wilber-Clatonia.
“Our main focus is to try and get better every day, take care of the daily stuff and put ourselves in position at the end,” Gavers said.