ROANOKE – A basketball team is only as good as its backcourt. For Roanoke-Benson, they graduated a pair of veterans in two-time first team Tri-County Conference Jake Weber (13.8 points per game, 63 threes and 1,108 career points) and Jarrett Bline.
According to Rockets’ head coach Abe Zeller, there are still guards at his disposal.
“Luckily, Jake’s younger brother, Jack, is a three-year starter. He’s showed in the summer and practice to be the floor general,” he commented. “We have other options.”
Jack Weber (8.4 ppg) is the lone starter back off a 19-13 squad that lost 63-56 to Kewanee Wethersfield in the Annawan Regional final. R-B scored at a clip of 51.9 points per contest.
Also back is 6-foot-8 junior center Luke Braman (10.2 ppg, 7.8 rebounds), who should post a plethora of double-doubles provided he stays out of foul trouble.
“I would love to see him average a double-double,” said Zeller, who starts his 12th season at R-B (162-150 record). “It depends on the motor he brings every day. He made steps as a sophomore and I expect him to make more as a junior.”
Other returnees include senior forward Trent Weldon, twin guards in seniors Jacob and Logan Nix, along with junior guard James Early.
The Rockets permitted 42.7 points per ballgame.
Potentially, Zeller sees this being his best defensive squad.
“I would say this group could be the best defensive team we’ve had since I’ve been here,” the Gridley native stated. “We have a lot of length. With Luke, we can be more aggressive when we want and just being able to cover the floor. Overall, I’m excited what we can do defensively.”
Ottawa Marquette (28-3, 9-0) won the regular season TCC crown and the tournament, but adversity has already set in.
“I’ve heard the injury bug has hit them,” said Zeller of the Crusaders. “They lost all five starters. They’ll still be good.”
That couple open the door for Peoria Christian or the Rockets.
“I would say we’re as good as anybody in the conference,” Zeller declared.
R-B and Olympia open the El Paso-Gridley Classic on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. The remainder of the schedule is listed below (all non-tourney varsity contests will tip around 7 p.m. unless noted):
Friday: versus Hartsburg-Emden in EP-G Classic, 5:30 p.m.
Saturday: @ EP-G in EP-G Classic
Dec. 6: vs. Putnam County* @ Granville, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 7: @ Tremont
Dec. 13: vs. Bloomington Cornerstone Christian Academy
Dec. 17: vs. Peoria Heights
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Dec. 20: vs. Henry*
Dec. 21: vs. Sullivan in Eureka College Shootout @ Reagan Athletic Complex, 4 p.m.
Dec. 26-28 & 30: Williamsville tourney
Jan. 4: vs. KW in Sandburg Shootout @ Galesburg’s Carl Sandburg College, 6:30 p.m.
Jan. 7: @ Eureka
Jan. 10: @ Lowpoint-Washburn*
Jan. 11: vs. OM*
Jan. 14: vs. Fieldcrest
Jan. 17: vs. Midland*
Jan. 18: @ Princeville. 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 21: vs. Quest Academy @ Peoria Woodruff, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 24: @ DePue*
Jan. 27-31: TCC tourney @ Granville
Feb. 4: vs. Ridgeview
Feb. 7: vs. Woodland*
Feb. 11: vs. Tri-Valley
Feb. 14: vs. Seneca*
Feb. 18: @ Flanagan-Cornell
Feb. 21: @ Peoria Christian*
Feb. 24-28: Regional
Notes: All varsity tip times have moved up 30 minutes, as the junior varsity contests will now begin at 5:30 p.m. BCCA and the Sandburg Shootout are new to the schedule. According to Zeller, Warrensburg-Latham is in line to host the sectional. The league’s two new coaches are Zack Weber (L-W) and Allan Hattan (Midland). R-B is 20 wins away from 1,700 in program history.