Warsaw Coach Matt Moore watched his two leading scorers receive their diplomas last spring, but he’s optimistic about the squad who will take the court against Columbia City in the season opener.
"This fall and the first ten practices have been a step in the right direction for our program to continue to build off the efforts of our past teams,” Moore says. “Although we graduated some critical players in our program, I feel the players stepping into bigger roles should provide us with the skill, desire and competitive spirit we need to re-enter the conversation in the NLC and Sectional 4."
Jaxson Gould, who became the 13th Tiger to reach 1,000 points and finished with 1,148 career points and tenth in scoring in WCHS history graduated after playing in 77 varsity games. Drew Heckaman, who averaged 12 points and 3.5 rebounds per game as a senior, also graduated.
Jaxson’s brother Carson returns for a third season as point guard for the Tigers, and Moore says he’s proven this offseason that he’s ready to lead.
"He (Carson) has only become more dynamic in his ability to lead and create as a play maker,” Moore says. “His toughness and competitive spirit is among the best I have coached in my 15 years and I am excited for others to grow in their appreciation for him and how he plays the game."
Sniper Luke Bricker is also back. He led the Tigers in 3pt FGs with 41 and was 23 of 26 at the free throw line (88.5%) last season.
"Luke will be the target of a lot of teams on our schedule,” Coach Moore claims. “He has consistently improved some of the areas of weakness from his sophomore year and has proven this offseason he is capable of creating off the bounce more than past seasons.
Moore says shooting should be a strength of this year’s team.
“We have four players that we believe can really shoot the basketball well and might be the primary area we have grown the most as a program these past few years."
The Tigers only have one senior on the roster, but he most definitely stands out in a crowd. Luke Yeager, who rises to 6’8” tall and tips the scales at 235 pounds, is hoping to build off some success on offense and defense last season to have a big final season.
"Yeager has done a nice job of being a calming presence,” Moore added. “He has become a reliable presence at both ends of the floor and has worked extremely hard to continue to evolve as an all-around player. I look forward to seeing that payoff his senior year."
Moore (45-26 in 3 seasons at WCHS) also expects fans to see a different style of Tiger basketball this year than in the past three seasons—one with a quicker pace.
“We believe we have depth and experience returning,” Moore says ahead of the start of his fourth season in Warsaw, “and we need to grow the number of possessions we can get in games to give us the best chance to win.”
That depth will included players like the speedy Trai Davis, last year’s leading scorer for the junior varsity Robbie Finlinson and Drew Sullivan.
When asked about what a successful season for the Tigers might look like in 2023-24, Moore says it’s about how his players handle what’s in front of them.
"It’ll be measured on our ability to compete and defend at a high level on a night in night out basis. This group possesses a lot of great qualities of special teams, but they have yet to handle difficult times. When those arise, and they will, our true character will come out. I hope our community will come support and grow with this team during the 2023-24 season."
Warsaw opens with Columbia City on the road November 25 before hosting Homestead and Huntington North during the first weekend in December.
This year’s schedule is highlighted by their annual game at Grace—this year against SB Washington—on December 16, a trip to the newly-named Al Rhodes Court at the Palace January 9th against Penn, and a second “throw-back” game at Lakeview Middle School against Marion on February 6.