The 2021-2022 edition of the Manchester boys’ basketball quad is like an open canvas. Head coach Eli Henson’s squad has a completely different cast of characters who will make their imprint in the second year of Henson’s coaching tenure.

The prior season was successful despite a first round sectional tournament loss. The Squires finished 12-9 overall, and 7-2 in Three Rivers Conference action. They are stepping onto the hardcourt this year, however, without 48 points per game from last year’s squad. Graduation, relocation, and attrition cleared the table for this year’s Manchester squad.

Henson will look to his guards and their moderate amount of experience to lead the troops.

Seniors Cade Jones (6’0”), and William Rickerd (6’2”), the latter a transfer from Southern Wells with TRC action at Whitko as a sophomore, will provide a combination capable of attacking the rim and hitting outside shots.

The backcourt tandem will get immediate help from Gavin Martin (6’0” sophomore), who will be a three-point shooting threat, and freshman point guard Ethan Hendrix (5’6”).

Freshman Gavin Betten, a versatile 6’5” post player, will protect the rim inside for the Squires. Caden Miller, a 6’2” junior, will use his toughness to make up for some of the team’s otherwise collectively moderate size.

“(Caden) has worked hard at improving his shot from the outside,” noted Henson about the physical role-player.

Henson’s constructive use of energy on the sidelines during game time was visible to Squire fans in last year’s campaign. He’s looking for a contagion of his fire on the court among his young athletes.

“I do feel that my energy and fire are contagious,” Henson remarked. “I try to use my energy in a positive way with my team and try to motivate them when I feel it is needed. My players know what the expectations are every day at practice, and games, and they know I am going to bring energy each and every night.”  

Last year wasn’t Henson’s first TRC rodeo. He coached the Whitko Wildcats prior to taking the reins at Manchester. Henson’s tribal knowledge of his TRC opposition makes him view the league title race as an open canvas like the one he’ll have in his own gymnasium.

“I feel the TRC is wide open this year,” Henson said. “There are five teams who wouldn't surprise me if they won it.”

“I believe two of our toughest non-conference opponents will be in our first few games,” Henson continued. “Oak Hill (Sat Nov 27 home opener) and Huntington North (Fri Dec 11 road game) return quality starters, and they have a good amount of depth.”

Henson’s young team, in typical fashion, faces the challenge of performing consistently well throughout the game.

“Consistency will be key for us. So far in three weeks we have good nights in practice, and we have bad nights.” Henson said. “We need to be more consistent with our execution on both ends of the floor and play to our strengths. We have a couple of good guards who can make plays and a post player that is getting better (each) day.”

Solid defense is a trademark of an Eli Henson-coached squad. The Squire mentor continues to look for his athletes to play solid defense this season as well even though they won’t go deep into the bench on game night.

“We want to play in your face defense while doing a good job of containing the ball,” Henson said. “We aren't that deep of a team, so we know we have to keep our key players out of foul trouble.”

The Squires travel to Bluffton tonight for their season opener. Tip-off is 7:30 p.m.