Depth, athleticism are keys to Pacer basketball season

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The Switzerland County Pacer varsity basketball team opens its season this Tuesday on the road at Floyd Central, and as head coach B.J. McAlister begins his second year at the Pacer helm, he and his coaching staff see a large group of returnees as the cornerstone of what promises to be a good year.

“It’s really been a joy to come into our second year when you return so many guys like we do,” Coach McAlister said. “Compared to where we started out last year to where we are now, we’re really proud of how our guys have embraced what we want to do. The communication level is so much better from coaches to players; from players to coaches; and from players to players.”

Heading into Tuesday’s opener, the Pacer coach feels that shooting is a strength of his team; and also feels that the Switzerland County defense defends the perimeter pretty well. He feels that team rebounding is something that the squad is continuing to work on; but knows that the hard work that the team has already put in will pay dividends as the season moves forward.

“We really want to guard people really hard and we want to make sure that we hold teams to ‘one and done’,” the coach said. “We want to allow them one shot and then we want to rebound and head the other way.”

Communication is also a strong point for the team, especially early in the season, and Coach McAlister feels that his team is ready to get the year off to a good start.

This year’s Switzerland County is a solid team, but things start with senior Keegan Kincaid, one of the area’s best players who will draw the focus of opposing teams throughout the campaign.

“Everybody knows that we’ve got Keegan and what a great player he’s been for us for the past three years,” B.J. McAlister said. “But we feel that we’ve also got some good young kids who have really developed their skill set.”

The coach supports that notion by pouring through his roster:

-  Senior Quinn Meyer is 6’4″ floor player who will use his athleticism to create mismatches;

-  Senior Anthony Dennis will be a real team leader both on and off of the floor;

-  Sophomore Chase Ritch got some varsity playing time last year as a freshman;

-  Junior Trevor Smith started at guard throughout his sophomore campaign last year;

-  Sophomore Austin Clark is a player who the coach says has really improved his skill set;

-  Sophomore Braden Burk has ramped up his overall game heading into the season.

The list goes on of the players who the coach is counting on for big minutes.

Junior Tyler Queen will be missed this season, as he will sit out the campaign after undergoing knee surgery; but the coach says that the junior is still a big component in this year’s team.

“It’s been tough on our guys knowing that he’s going to have to sit and watch this year,” the coach said. “But this is life. We love Tyler and we hate that this happened, but it’s next man up.”

The coach also pointed to junior Clint Swanson as a key to the year, calling him “super athletic”; and sophomores Bob Tressler, Dakota Taylor, Nathan Hunter, Justus Powell and T.J. White will also be looked to for providing solid play and important minutes as the season moves forward.

The jayvee team will also see plenty of freshman, as this year the Pacers will not be fielding a freshman team.

As for the conference, Coach McAlister sees a balanced league; with any team being able to earn a win on any given night.

“Milan returns basically everyone and they do a nice job,” the coach said. “Rising Sun returns a lot. South Ripley returns a lot. Jac-Cen-Del, Southwestern, and Shawe lost some big pieces, but they always work hard to fill those holes, so they will be strong. And don’t forget that we only lost one player – but that was an important player for us in Adam Clark – but it’s going to be a really strong conference.”

The coach said that when outsiders look at the Switzerland County schedule, games with 4A Floyd Central and Jennings County stick out; but from tip off to tournament time, the Pacers have a really strong schedule night in and night out.

One of the new aspects of the season is that the Pacers will be in a new tournament, as they will cross the river to play in the North American Stainless Classic at Carroll County High School just before Christmas.

“Being in this part of the state, sometimes it’s hard to find games against different teams,” Coach McAlister said. “This is going to give us three games in three days; and it’s right before Christmas, so this year we’re going to be able to give our players some time off after the holidays. In the past we’ve always played right after Christmas, so we think this will be great for our kids and we won’t have to travel very far.”

Add to that the annual Rivertown Classic tournament at South Dearborn to kick off 2012; and this year’s schedule will be filled with outstanding basketball and close games.

“We hope that the community comes out and supports us throughout the year,” the coach said. “We’re working hard every day to make sure that we have a good season.”