There will be a huge turnover for the Poland boys basketball team in 2012-2013.
The Bulldogs, who won 17 out of 23 games a year ago, lost four fabulous parts to their team thanks to graduation. Poland played in the district championship last March, but getting back to that round of the Division II tournament this year may be trying for this traditionally terrific team.
"We only have one starter back," said longtime Poland head coach Ken Grisdale a few days before the start of the new season. "We have to have some patience as we figure out who will play and how we'll play."
When Poland does play its first game at home on Dec. 4 against Liberty, coach Grisdale will have a decent nucleus at his disposal. Although the Bulldogs are short on experience, they are long on upperclassmen. Grisdale has 10 kids who right now should figure prominently in his plans with six of those being seniors and three juniors. All of those boys have brought their best basketball to the Bulldog lower ranks in the past.
"The cupboard is certainly not bare," said Grisdale excitedly. "Our JV team went 19-1 last year and our freshmen team was undefeated. Those are the kids we are going to build around."
The top building block could be junior Jake Wolfe who is the lone returning starter and leading returnee in points, assists, free throw percentage and rebounds. Wolfe wowed his opponents all season as starting quarterback on the football team and should play a leading role on the hard court as well.
"(Wolfe) is a tremendous athlete," said Grisdale.
Athletic is also the word that best describes senior shooting guard Ryan Burke. Burke will be penciled in Poland's lineup because of his sensational shooting ability.
"(Burke) is one of the best shooters we've had here in a long time," Grisdale said. "He is a real zone buster."
Another Bulldog who is able to bust through opposing presses is senior point guard Kevin White. White should be a mainstay for the blue and white because of his precision passing prowess. White will share court time with fellow seniors Mario Bouchedid, Troy Bole and Alex Hubbell. All three of those kids are known for their scrappiness and lockdown defense. Hubbell, who shot nearly 50 percent last season, was a teammate of Wolfe's on the football field and coach Grisdale loves that he brings some of that gridiron mentality to the basketball team.
"We call him the beast," said Grisdale about Hubbell. "We need kids like him to rebound."
Also on the rebound this year will be the sixth Poland senior Nick Andrews. Andrews played hoops as a sophomore then sat out his junior year. He is back now to lend some length to Poland's frontcourt.
"(Andrews) gives us some size and will play in the post for us," Grisdale mentioned.
Poland will have a pair of juniors to join Wolfe from that class in shooting guard Jacob Roemer and George Chammas. While Roemer will usually roam off the bench, Chammas is being counted on to play a more integral role.
"(Chammas) will be a starter at the three for us," announced Grisdale. "At six feet, he is a good athlete."
Sophomore Nick Gajdos will make the squad as a backup point guard further displaying the depth in which Poland possesses. It is Grisdale's job to decide what wave of players play the best together.
"We are looking for the kids who best fit our plans," Grisdale explained. "What I learned in 20 years of coaching is that you can't make kids do things they can't do."
There are some experts who think that one definite thing the Bulldogs can't do this winter is win the All American Red Tier. Poland placed second in the league a year ago, but their lack of varsity experience may prohibit them from exceeding that spot. Howland, who brings almost all of its starters back, seem to be the league favorite. Rivals Struthers, Canfield and Fitch are in the same boat as the Bulldogs as far as experience is concerned. As the season opener with Liberty loomed, coach Grisdale was not worried about winning the conference, he was just looking to get off on the right foot.
"Hopefully we can start to define roles better (early in the season)," Grisdale said honestly. "We have kids who work hard and we expect them to work hard all season."