BY YANEEK SMITH, BEACON CONTRIBUTOR
DANBURY TWP. — For a team with six seniors, three players that are 6-foot-5 and another year of experience under Keith Diebler’s up-tempo system, there are reasons to be optimistic for Danbury.
Bradley Murray, a 5-10 senior guard, is currently battling an injury, but he should be back in time for the start of the season. He averaged 18.7 points and 6.2 rebounds last season. Junior Blake Barker, a 6-5 junior wing/post, averaged 8.2 points and 8.4 rebounds last year, 6-0 senior wing/guard Grayson Clark put up 5.3 points and 6.4 rebounds and 6-5 senior post Daniel Webster averaged 5.1 points.
Gone from last year are Beau Buchanan, Kaden Conrad and Brandon Wunder, all of whom were key contributors last season. Conrad was one of the leading scorers last season, averaging 10.1 points.
“All three played extensively last year and are going to be missed,” said Diebler.
The Lakers went 2-21 last year and 1-15 in the Sandusky Bay Conference River Division.
The fast-paced system that Diebler is known for is now in its third season with the team, and the Lakers can say they’ve put some of the distractions behind them.
“In my first year, we did not have a summer practice, and the second year with Covid-19, and not having consistent practices, it was tough. Last winter was such a mess, and we never got in a rhythm,” Diebler said. “I think this is the first year you’ll see a typical team like we had at Upper Sandusky and a couple of other places.
“Except for the injuries with Alex Frank and Bradley Murray, we are finally having solid practices. Everybody on the roster has shown a great attitude and a willingness to work really hard,” said Diebler. “We’re still looking where we’re going to go with the starting lineup.”
In addition to Murray, Clark, Webster and Frank, a 6-1 post/wing, the two other seniors are 6-0 wing/guard Danny Harris and 6-3 wing/post Andy Zelms.
“We’ve got Grayson Clark back. We didn’t have him as much as we would’ve liked last year; now he’s finally healthy and back,” said Diebler. “Daniel Webster is back, Danny Harris played some last year, and we have Alex Frank and Andy Zelms back. Alex will help us on the wing and in the post.”
The juniors are Barker, 5-8 post/wing Maverick Murray, 5-10 post/wing Guy Maltese, 6-0 wing/post Landon Dunlap and 6-5 post/wing James Morrissey. There are two sophomores — 5-8 point guard Gaven Clark and 5-10 wing Elijah Hatfield — and 6-3 wing/guard Tyler Harris is the lone freshman.
“We think we can play 10 people,” Diebler said. “With what we’re trying to do, that’s going to be imperative. We’ll see as people come back from injuries. We feel comfortable about where we are right now.”
Diebler outlined the team’s goals for the season.
“I have each of the kids fill out cards and things like that. I think one of the things that we’re stressing this year is the philosophy of going 1-0 for each game,” he said. “That’s our goal. Playing one game at a time, and playing the best we can all the time.”
The River Division is filled with good teams. Last year, five of the nine teams had winning records and Old Fort and Tiffin Calvert, who tied for the league title, won a combined 39 games and claimed sectional titles.
“The league is going to be very tough. Like always, this is a basketball league,” Diebler said. “Old Fort is always good, New Riegel is going to be solid, Calvert is going to be good, Gibsonburg is going to be strong, and Lakota is going to be very strong. This is a really, really competitive league.
“With solid practices and a lot of lettermen back, we’re hoping to compete the way we should.”