Hopefully game programs are easy to come by and plentiful early in the season because fans of the Bobcat boy's basketball team may need help knowing who to cheer for.
The top six scorers and the top six rebounders from last year all graduated, leaving MHS coach Scott Smith with plenty of new faces and some fresh bodies as the Bobcats try to rebuild from a 6-16 campaign a season ago.
Smith said this year's group won't be tall but they will be faster and maybe even be a bit more athletic than in recent years.
T-R PHOTO BY TROY HYDE
The Marshalltown Bobcat basketball team is expected to be led this season by three senior captains (from left) Dylan Diveney, Mason McCarville and Connor Johnson. Marshalltown went 6-16 last year and graduated its top six scorers and top six rebounders.
"We will probably be deeper than last year but not quite as tall," Smith said. "Our philosophy generally is to get up and down the court and shoot a bunch of 3-pointers. We won't be as good of a shooting team this year but we have more guys that can get to the basket on a dribble and drive."
The Bobcats lost 43.5 of their 49.7 points per game from last year and 23 of their 26 rebounds also are gone. That means guys like senior Mason McCarville, junior Austin Kluver and sophomore Aaron Hauser are going to have to step into new roles and present more of an offensive threat. That trio averaged a combined 8.3 points per game a season ago.
"Our offense is based around the 3 so that will be a big part of what we do," said McCarville, who averaged 3.7 ppg and 1.1 rpg last year. "We mesh a little better as a team this year. We play better as a team. There is a little bit more expected of me. I need to be more of scorer. I hope to lead the team and bring out the best in the team."
The good news is that McCarville, Kluver and Hauser will get help from transfer Dylan Diveney and an improved Connor Johnson down low. Austin Lovin, Brady Arment, Jordan Smith and Jacob Shirar are all likely to provide the Bobcats with depth off the bench.
"He has adjusted well," said Johnson of Diveney. "He can really shoot the ball, and he can get up and down the court. He is just who we need in our system.
"We will play hard on defense, try to get some steals and get easy buckets at the other end. That will be key. We aren't big so we won't always be able to score in the halfcourt."
Coach Smith said he would like to go eight or nine deep all season. And with the way fouls are being called and hand checking is being emphasized in the early part of the girl's season, depth is going to be key to any team moving forward. The Bobcats also hit just 62 percent of its free throws last year.
"We'll have to be a good free throw shooting team because we should get to the line a lot at least early in the year," Smith said. "We would be foolish not to take advantage of the hand check rule on the offensive end. Time will tell if it lasts all season."
Diveney comes to Marshalltown after averaging around 14 points and eight rebounds per game at Clarke last year. He should fit right into what the Bobcats want to do at both ends of the court.
"He doesn't care if he scores a point," Smith said. "He brings good chemistry to the team and is an unselfish player. He transitions well, runs the floor well and will play anywhere from the 2-guard to the 5-man."
Diveney was voted a team captain by his teammates, joining fellow seniors McCarville and Johnson.
"Mason shoots the ball really well and has had a good preseason," Smith said. "Johnson has been waiting his turn to play varsity, and I think he will have a great year. He sees this is as his opportunity to make a mark. I like him in the pain, he is left-handed and a great passer."
Johnson and Diveney will be the primary post players in the Bobcats' four-out, one-in system. The primary point guards running the offense will be Kluver and Hauser.
"We are not very big, but we're quick and we'll play good defense and get up and down the court," said Diveney. "This team should be good in transition. We have a lot of good chemistry on offense."
Smith said the Bobcats had one of their better offseasons since he's been head coach of the program. The team showed great commitment this summer by attending the Bobcat Camp, another team camp and going through individual workouts with the coaches.
"That commitment carried over into the fall open gyms, too," Smith said. "The seniors have done a great job leading the team and things are going as well as they can right now."
Like always, the Central Iowa Metropolitan League will present plenty of challenges. Smith expects Des Moines Hoover, Des Moines Roosevelt, West Des Moines Valley, Waukee and Ankeny Centennial to be near the top of the entire league and thinks Fort Dodge will be a much improved squad within the CIC Northern Division.
"It is a grind and always a tough league," Smith said. "There is a lot of parity this year and it's still the best league in the state from top to bottom.
"I try not to look too far ahead when it comes to the schedule. I don't want to lose sleep or have an ulcer at a young age."
The Bobcats beat Mason City twice last year, while also locking up wins over Boone, Newton, Fort Dodge and Indianola. They started 3-3 before ending the year with 13 losses in the final 16 games.
They were the fourth best team in Class 4A as far as turnovers go. MHS committed just 193 miscues on the year but still were outscored by nearly 12 points per game.
Marshalltown kicks off its season Tuesday at the Roundhouse against Hoover. The game will follow the girl's varsity contest and is slated to begin at around 7:45 p.m.