Century senior Zach Owings talks about the Knights upcoming season.
Pre-game introductions will take on an entirely new meaning for the Century High boys basketball team this season.
Only one starter — senior forward Zach Owings — returns from a team that went 23-3 and played in the Class 2A state championship game in College Park last March.
With nine players lost to graduation, it figures the Knights won't be as deep as the 2016-17 club. Zach Tucker, the reigning Times Boys Basketball Player of the Year and the county’s leading scorer, was clearly the biggest loss.
“We are trying to find chemistry and learning how to play together,” Century coach George Wunder said. “We lost probably 90 percent of our scoring. We’ll rely on our juniors and seniors to fill the void. You can’t replace a Zach Tucker, Chris Norman, or an Adam Rolfes. We have really good players coming in, but they are young.”
“He plays with a lot of energy and plays hard,” Wunder said. “He brings the energy that is needed day in and day out on a varsity basketball team. It’s infectious. Other players feed off of him.”
Owings rebounds fairly well and can defend while his offensive game should improve. He averaged 5.4 points and 3.1 rebounds per game.
“He does a great job of controlling the rebounds, and he is an efficient scorer,” Wunder said.
Wunder, who is in his 16th season and has a 224-133 career record, is looking for a few other frontcourt players to emerge after the graduation of Norman, who averaged 14.2 points and 8.2 rebounds last year.
Senior center Alex Prokic (6-5), a varsity returnee, and two players promoted from last year’s junior varsity, Jared Lamb (6-3) and Matt Huber (6-3), have the potential to be productive players.
Senior center Trevor Grimes (6-5) and senior forward Tim Riley (6-2) also provide frontcourt depth.
“We have a pretty good group of guys who will rotate in,” Wunder said. “I like our depth inside.”
Replacing the production of Tucker won’t be easy. He averaged 24 points and 4.2 assists per game last year and was on the court as much as possible.
Wunder plans on filling the huge void with a collection of guards.
The coach will rely heavily on senior guard and varsity returnee Azariah Knox (6-2), and two players elevated from last year’s junior varsity, juniors Jake Diehl (5-11) and Carter Truby (6-2).
Wunder’s son, Justin (5-11), a sophomore, and junior Camden Stewart (5-9) will push for playing time.
“I am not asking one guy to be Zach Tucker,” Wunder said. “We have multiple guys who can contribute. It’s a new team with a new identity. We will play together as a team and start a new journey.”
Wunder has been particularly impressed with Truby, who could be a double-digit scorer.
“Truby will probably be one of our better guards,” he explained. “He is a good all-around player. He doesn’t have any weaknesses. He shoots the ball well and can get to the basket and finish. I like his overall game a lot.”
Truby is one of five players brought up from last year’s junior varsity.
Owings loves the energy and array of skills they bring to the Knights.
“They have a lot of talent,” Owings said. “They are good rebounders and shooters and they play hard in practice, which helps pushes us seniors to go harder.”
If the reigning county champions show signs of decline from last year, other teams, like Westminster and Liberty, could be ready to grab the title, though the Knights should be a formidable group again.
Westminster won 15 games last season and placed second in the county standings (9-3), while Liberty was 14-10, 8-4.
Wunder has guided Century to 10 straight winning seasons.
“They are good every year,” Owls coach Brett Kanther said. “They will play good half-court defense and they will execute on offense. But there’s a lot of good teams, players and coaches. It’s up for any one to take. Last year, we were right there (with Century). We had three league losses. Two of them to Century were by a combined total of seven points.”
Manchester Valley returns all-county guard Bo Schene, and Francis Scott Key brings back a pair of double-digit average scorers in Amir Cole and Noah Vipond.
South Carroll looks to replace its two scorer from a year ago in all-county forward Henry Cook.