2021 Panther Hoops Preview

John Beggs, Writer

Panther Hoops is back! Think of all of the things that did not survive COVID: a presidency, Steak ‘n Shake on College Mall Road, normal schooling, etc. 

But you know what did survive? Panther Hoops! Back in spectacular fashion, this uber-competitive league is swarming with talent. Between so-called “super teams” and the rookie rosters, it’s shaping up to be a great year for Bloomington’s premier basketball league. As has become tradition, this will preview each and every team that will compete this year, along with their coaching staff and special weapons. This semi-satirical preview is a favorite amongst Optimist readers as it truly does create what we all know and love about Panther Hoops: the culture. Everybody from scrubs to former South players will compete this year, making the sixty-point blowouts fun to watch and the nail-biting games exciting. 

Before the rosters, Optimist has decided to once again bestow preseason awards. Predictions, if you will, that may accurately forecast all that is to come and are just one reason P-Hoops is all that it is.

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MVP: Ethan Uhls

Team Biggs’ Ethan Uhls was an absolute stud last year, and he’s only gotten better (probably, Optimist isn’t sure). As far as South sports goes for 2020-2021, Uhls has been among the most successful, placing third in the State in tennis last fall. Coming up clutch in big moments is what makes him valuable. The best scorer won’t be the MVP, nor will the best defender. It’s the one who teams look to when a play needs to be made, and Optimist is sure that Uhls will be the one. Also, we may be biased as he is an Optimist staff writer.

Defensive Player of the Year: Darnell Boyce

Boyce brings with him a lot of experience in big moments, but is also just a really big dude, which is why he will probably be DPOY. Optimist has a feeling that blocks are going to make him special this season. If defense really does win championships, his team might be on the up and up.

Logan Hanchett Fattest Clip Award: Timothy Pak and Isaiah Skolak

This one had to be shared, as these two men are phenomenal shooters. Goers of the YMCA will recognize these two as they spend a lot of time knocking down triples on those courts. It’ll be exciting to see if they live up to this prediction, but maybe not for their team, as it could cause the two to strictly shoot the ball every time they touch it. 

Most Improved Player: Jaden Badger

Badger brings with him experience, which is what his team will need the most. His work this off-season will hopefully cause him to put up some numbers worth of the MIP award. Or maybe it won’t work out, but Optimist believes in him fully. 

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B-Town Bums

To start it out, the B-Town Bums are coached by HFI CEO Steve Dawson. This season will be a test not only for him, but his players as well. It’s time to answer the age-old question: does heating and cooling buildings translate to solid coaching and success? His young roster will be in for it this year. Freshman Noah Fox, a star on the football field, is sure to put up some numbers down low. Fox will be a reason you can’t count out the Bums this year, and Freshman Luke Thompson will be another. If you’re looking for professional advice in athletics, Luke’s father, former professional baseball player Tyler Thompson, is the man to call. Will the wiry, long-haired youngin make his way into the P-Hoops Hall of Fame? Time will tell.

Roster: Noah Fox, Luke Thompson, Adam Abdul-Hakim, Benjamin Ridner, Matt Eller, Adrian Rheam, Jacob Reinhart

Coach: Steve Dawson

“I just want to play with basketballs.” -Noah Fox

Ja (like Ja Morant)

Newly-minted hometown hero Dasan McCullough is set to bring glory to IU football. But before that, this large and in charge defensive football machine is set to coach Ja (like Ja Morant) to a Panther Hoops title. His lineup is strong in some areas and weaker in others, as they seem to lack a perimeter shooter. However, down low, these guys will be unstoppable. Senior Darnell Boyce, who recently took up boxing as a hobby, will be difficult to guard down low as he is probably the biggest, strongest human in the school. And Murry Ross-Harman, who spends his falls breaking up passes on the football field, will be an asset at snatching rebounds. But experience matters, too. That must be why McCullough recruited Senior Jaden Badger to his team. Badger brings with him a wealth of experience and knowledge of basketball, as well as superior athletic ability. This team could be special.

Roster: Jaden Badger, Daeh McCullough, Sam Young, Che Houge, D’andre Black, Kam Rendell, Jack Hallett, Murry Ross-Harman, Darnell Boyce, Evan Smythe

Coach: Dasan McCullough

“I don’t play basketball, but I’ll still take it to the hole.” -Darnell Boyce

O Block Killaz

Patrick Joyce is the first Panther basketball player to have signed up to coach this year, and coach he must, because it appears his lineup might need it. This all-Junior group of men has size, speed, and brains, but winning a Panther Hoops title cannot be done by just anybody. You have to have the it-factor, and O Block Killaz might be lacking. Their big man, David Nussbaum, will be an asset down low, but will he be able to translate from the football field to the hardwood? And will Aidan King, who seems to have continually grown for the last two years without stopping, be able to bring everything he has learned from Coach Kluesner on the baseball field to the court when his team really needs him? There are so many unanswered questions with this squad. 

Roster: Caleb Hayes, David Nussbaum, Aidan King, David Rice, Jack Bryan, Kwame Dakwa, Grant New, Gabe Vanness

Coach: Patrick Joyce

“I’m excited for Panther Hoops this year. Last year, the team went 2-7 so we are hoping to turn it around this year. The competition seems to be pretty bad this year, so we aren’t too worried.” – David Rice

Dream Team

This is Optimist’s bet to win it all. Experience, coaching, and team camaraderie are what builds teams, and Dream Team has all three. Senior Joey Bomba, who recently committed to play collegiate ball at UIndy, will coach a veteran lineup for this Panther Hoops season. Dylan Cordell, a Senior who also works at Dick’s Sporting Goods, will be able to supply the team with any equipment they might need. Jack Boyle, who ought to make his Instagram @easymoneysniper_2.0, will have a chance to make up for the 124 he made at Otis Park during golf season. Timothy Pak and Grant Bivins, both superior shooters, will be assets to a team full of talent. And Tommy Alani is a really nice guy.

Roster: Ryan McGhee, Tommy Alani, Timothy Pak, Jack Boyle, Grant Bivins, Boone Fowler, Dylan Cordell, Isaiah Skolak

Coach: Joey Bomba

“I’d like to thank my manager for the time off to put up 40 on Jaden Badger and drop Ethan Uhls like a sack of potatoes.” -Dylan Cordell

THE GENTLEMEN

Yet another team of freshman will be making their Panther Hoops debut this season. Starting out this year is Evan Kantor, an absolutely fantastic tennis player. Kantor, unlike most freshmen at South, has been in big athletic moments before — he was a full-time varsity tennis player in the fall on a team that won sectionals and competed in the regional final. Additionally, Nick England, another freshman, might have the coolest last name on the court all season. THE GENTLEMEN truly could be a Cinderella story.

Roster: Julian Dusleag, Aazam Zaidi, Tyler Nguyen, Drew Steinmetz, Bryson Marlett, Nate McGhee, Nick England, Ben Morrison, Wesley Hallett, Evan Kantor

Coach: Anmar Zaidi

“It’s been a while since I’ve played basketball, but I am excited to play with my friends and win some games.” -Evan Kantor

Glory Boys

Coming in with the worst team name of the year are the Glory Boys. Their excruciatingly bland name may just transfer to the basketball court, but we’ll see soon enough. Cooper Fox is coming off of a less than stellar P-Hoops season last year, and you can bet he hopes to turn that around. Will the downtime this offseason hurt him? The Glory Boys are coached by Gus Conrad and Eli Dilts, an uncommon pairing that just may do the trick. Conrad will be doing double duty as a player/coach, which is not uncommon in basketball; Bill Russell did the same with the Boston Celtics and won two championships. Will Conrad be able to do the same? Everybody knows that NBA Championships are comparable to Panther Hoops Championships, which is why the player/coach thing may just work out. And apparently Daeh McCullough is on this team as well as Ja (like Ja Morant), which could make for a controversial matchup should the teams meet.

Roster: Gus Conrad, Duke Conrad, Ethan Griffin, Jackson Storm, Jacob Stremming, Cooper Fox, AJ Brenson, Drew Crum, Daeh McCullough, Calder East

Coaches: Gus Conrad, Eli Dilts

North (they don’t get a cool name)

The team that nobody is rooting for this year is North (they don’t get a cool name). Coming from that other school across town, this team is made up of many names familiar to Bloomington South. First comes Cody Mikulich, the North running back that tore up South last fall. Will he be as unstoppable on the basketball court as he was on the football field? After his Sophomore season for the other school in Bloomington, Mikulich has posted 1,933 rushing yards and 23 rushing touchdowns. However, if last year is any indicator, skill on the football field does not always translate to the court. Also coming out this year is Reece Lozano. North football coach Scott Bless is certainly taking a risk letting his star quarterback play in this league, as it tends to become scrappy and frequent with injuries. Lozano, a Junior, will have to make big things happen from behind the 3-point line just as he does in the pocket.

Roster: Marcus Wynalda, Reece Lozano, Josh Hannah, Eli Norrick, Cody Mikulich, Konner Mishekis, Jack Nelson, Nathan Muterspaugh

Coach: No Coach

Team Biggs

Every year, there’s that one team that everybody thinks is going to make a big splash, and sometimes they do. However, those very teams are prone to underachieving. Could Team Biggs be that team? Coached by Maddix Blackwell, Garrett Blevins, and Sammy Kestranek, this team has got to have high expectations for themselves. But could three coaches be too many? Too many cooks in the kitchen? We’ll see. Coaching nightmare aside, this lineup has what it takes to be great. Made up entirely of Seniors, experience is their second greatest weapon right behind the freakishly athletic, ginger stud that is Ethan Uhls. Uhls, headed into his final P-Hoops season, made a name for himself last year in spectacular fashion. Big(gest) man Will Quigley could also fit the description, but Uhls is who Optimist has its eyes on. Let’s not count out Luke Kidd, though — this rock-climbing, singing machine has athletic ability similar to a gazelle which will come in handy during playoff season. Blackwell and Kestranek would do well to give him a lot of minutes.

Roster: Jas Saahir, Zion Taylor, Will Quigley, Ethan Uhls, Ryan Norris, Sean Hammock, DJ Bull, Alan Tatenbach, Luke Kidd, Mason David

Coaches: Maddix Blackwell, Sammy Kestranek, Garrett Blevins

“The competition is weak this year. We plan on playing with our eyes closed.” – Coach Maddix Blackwell

JPW Elite 2023

Access to courts is critical to a Panther Hoops team’s success, and JPW Elite 2023 has that. Coach Rhett Johnson has a basketball court at his house, which could prove to be a big advantage over other teams. Assisting him is Aiden Schmitz. This roster of sophomores admittedly has some athletes on it, and they’re going to need it. Michael Asplund, a solid role player will be able to play multiple spots due to his height and athleticism, as will Charlie Kershner. Kershner, a stellar Little League baseball player at Winslow, will need to take his talents to the harwood as he may be their biggest weapon. Coach Johnson needs to get the most out of his guys in order to find success this year, but will he be up to it?

Roster: Michael Asplund, Joe Stolz, Mason Miller, Adam Mujezinovic, Charlie Kershner, Nico Walters, Mason Schneider, Nicholas Shirley, Dylan Blume

Coaches: Rhett Johnson, Aiden Schmitz

“You may work hard, but you’re not a hard worker.” -Mason Schneider

Panther Hoops #1

The outlook is not good for Panther Hoops #1. Looking at their roster, it’s hard to find advantages on either side of the ball. But stranger things have happened. We put a man on the moon, split the atom, and spliced the gene. Could Panther Hoops #1 perform a similar miracle? Their biggest bright spot is Senior Noah Eads who brings with him four years of hard work and experience on the Panther Hoops floor. The big man will have his work cut out for him down low, but as Einstein said, “the only source of knowledge is experience.” This will be a testing year for Panther Hoops #1.

Roster: Clinten Daugherty, Jaden Alba, Jaylen Arthur, Jeremiah Ison, Kaden Arthur, Kameron Rendell, Kayden Long, Logan Sparks, Mari Clark, Noah Eads, Steffon Sylvester

Coach: Jay True

Panther Hoops #2

Panther Hoops fans across the city are rooting for Panther Hoops #2. A lineup of strong individuals could melt into a military-like unit focused on precision, cohesion, and winning. Or they could be terrible. The latter may seem more likely, but remember that an underdog with a strong fan base will typically out-perform a stronger opponent. Could designated coach Jay True be modelling Gene Hackman in “Hoosiers”? He probably isn’t, but it’s a nice thought. Tise Flowers, a new name to Panther Hoops, hopes to make a big entrance this year. Victory may seem unlikely, but that’s when the best stories take place.

Roster: Isaac Waldrep, Isaiah Cox, Jose Florez, Kaden Armstrong, Keagan Walker, La’Jon Flowers, Merik Davis, Mau Cruz, Mohamed Abou, Ray Cobb, Sam Patillo, Tise Flowers

Coach: Jay True

FACULTY

If you’re looking to actually like a team, FACULTY is the one for you. Comprised of South teachers and staff, this roster is unreal. First, you have Corbin, the well-liked security guard that nobody will want to guard because he may stop letting them back in the building when they skip school. Then you’ve got Mr. Whitehead, an absolute stud on the court. But Optimist is really keeping an eye out for rookie teacher and super-athlete Megan Pedersen. Mrs. Pedersen, a star track runner at both South and IU, will be far and away the best athlete on the floor in any game. The question again is whether or not it will translate. How well FACULTY does may be based on how many players on the opposing team are in their classes, as beating your teacher by 40 does not bode well for Skyward. 

Roster: Kerr, Mannen, McCauley, Dugan, Peck, Corbin, Pedersen, Whitehead, Abel, Shields

Coaches: They are the coaches, South just needed another team.