BROOKVILLE — Hearing a coach talk about his roster needing to get healthy has a cliche feel to it many times. For Brookville Raiders second-year head coach Dalton Park, it’s a real concern.
This year’s projected starting five have or still are dealing with significant injuries. Senior guard Brady Caylor is still trying to work back from offseason knee surgery, sophomore guard Jack Krug recently returned to the court recovering from a broken collarbone that wiped out most of his promising football season.
That’s not all. Senior guard Bryan Dworek missed three football games and working back to full strength, junior forward Aaron Park injured his knee this fall and senior Trenton Gilhousen injured his shoulder during football season.
He’s not using any of it as an excuse to any shortcomings. He’s just being realistic as the team was scheduled to scrimmage for the first time Tuesday at Marion Center. They open the season Friday in their tip-off tournament with Mercer.
“We’re getting a late start. If I gave you projected starting lineup from last year, all of them have injuries,” Park said. “Jack and Aaron were late starts and they’re back but not fully healthy. We’re getting a late start, that’s the biggest thing.
“The scary part is playing,” Park said Sunday. “I don’t know where we’re at speed-wise with the other teams, because we haven’t scrimmaged yet. I’m not sure with how fast or far we are.”
The Raiders were 14-10 last year, losing a 34-41 heart-breaker the district final to Karns City on a desperation 3-pointer that just beat the buzzer. They lost two players from the regular rotation to graduation, so while plenty of experience returns, it’s not all healthy.
“We don’t have a whole lot of numbers, 15 players in two games (varsity/JV),” said Park, who will be assisted again by Bud Baughman. “We’ll be splitting time so we don’t overrun kids early. We’re still easing into things. It’ll be tough at first because some guys aren’t going to be able to play the minutes they’ve played. We’ve got to come up with ways to fill those extra minutes.”
Park (12.6 ppg., 7.4 rebounds per game) and Dworek (9.6 ppg.) were the Raiders’ District 9 League All-Stars.
“We need more mobility out of Aaron and he’s practicing hard, but not as long and he’s not near where he was last year at the start. He’s playing more inside now until he gets his feet under him,” Coach Park said. “We want the ball to go through Aaron as much as possible so he can feed other guys inside and outside.
“Bryan’s game is looking to drive and run the floor. Hopefully we can get some good one-on-one defense from him,” Park added. “He’s definitely capable of that and hopefully we’ll see more of that this year. We’d like to see him attacking the basket more. He’s too quick. There aren’t many who can guard him, especially when we have a guy on the other side — Jack — who can do the same things. That’ll make Bryan better.”
Those two and Gilhousen (8.8 ppg.) logged heavy minutes last year.
“He’s an all-around contributor for us,” Park said of Gilhousen. “He can shoot, drive, play defense, he can fill in a lot of spots on the floor. He’s not a minus anywhere, but a plus.”
Krug averaged 3.3 points off the bench as a freshman. His return to full strength as the others is a big factor as well and the Raiders will need a boost in his offense as well as all of the returning players.
“We’re expecting more out of him and Jack’s excited for the season,” Park said. “He’s worked on his game. I’ve noticed it. His legs are starting to get under him.”
Junior big man Logan Byerly saw time off the bench as well and will be an important addition with more playing time.
“We’re going to face some big teams, so we’re going to need him in the game,” Park said. “He’s our pure center, but he has a nice touch from the outside. We’ll gain a lot from him in rebounds, so he’s important.”
From there, Park looks for big contributions from juniors Bryce Baughman and David Cable, who saw some limited varsity minutes last year. Baughman gives the Raiders a defensive presence at guard and even small forward while Cable’s perimeter shooting could be a valuable asset for a team that had limited outside shooting success a year ago.
Sophomores Robert Keth and Jace Miner add even more potential to the varsity rotation.
“They’re all going to give us depth I want to have and we won’t have a drop-off when they’re in the game,” Park said.
The schedule isn’t an easy one, with the District 9 League as usual along with non-league games with powerful defending Class 2A champion Coudersport, always strong Ridgway and Clearfield programs, defending Class 1A champion Johnsonburg, and either Brockway or Warren this weekend depending on how their opening-round game goes at the tip-off tournament.
“We play each game as it comes and try to get a win each game,” Park said. “And if you’re looking to get better for the playoffs and finish strong, this schedule is probably the way to go. There aren’t a lot of cupcakes. There wasn’t many in the past. Now, we have to play well to win. There’s no room for not playing well on this schedule.”
This year’s Class 3A playoff field in the district includes the Raiders, Kane and Moniteau with Karns City dropping down to Class 2A. It’ll be some type of sub-regional setup that’ll include District 5, which has two 3A teams in Chestnut Ridge and Everett.
Seniors: Bryan Dworek, Trenton Gilhousen, Brady Caylor. Juniors: Aaron Park, Logan Byerly, Bryce Baughman, David Cable, Cameron Hooven. Sophomores: Robert Keth, Jack Krug, Jace Miner, Chase Palmer, J.P. Young. Freshmen: Griffin Ruhlman, Danny Lauer.