Pictured left to right front row: Nathan Jackson, Ethan Brown, Owen Treece, Parker Conrad, Clayton Proffitt, Kolby Barnhart. Back Row: Assistant Coach Brandon Miller, Jake Hilleary, Tanner Barnhart, Colin Place, Spencer Adams, Keaton Brown, and Head Coach Ben Laudick. (Photo courtesy of Gibby’s)
Pictured left to right front row: Nathan Jackson, Ethan Brown, Owen Treece, Parker Conrad, Clayton Proffitt, Kolby Barnhart. Back Row: Assistant Coach Brandon Miller, Jake Hilleary, Tanner Barnhart, Colin Place, Spencer Adams, Keaton Brown, and Head Coach Ben Laudick. (Photo courtesy of Gibby’s)

VAN WERT — A bevy of new faces will grace the court for the Cougars this season and that starts with first year head coach Ben Laudick.

Laudick will take over a team that went 16-10 overall last season and 6-3 in the WBL en route to losing their district final game in an overtime contest against the Shawnee Indians.

Van Wert will attempt to “reload” rather than rebuild after losing four key players to graduation in Drew Bagley, Nate Place, Lawson Blackmore and Blake Henry.

Place, Bagley and Blackmore have all moved on to become college athletes at their respective schools.

Despite losing those four starters off of last year’s team, the Cougars are returning a select group of experienced players starting with Owen Treece.

Treece is the only returning starter from last year in a season where he averaged 10.5 points per game. He will be looked at as the Cougars main play-maker to start the year as his teammates gain experience at the varsity level.

Aside from Owen Treece, Van Wert returns three other letterwinners as seniors Jake Hilleary, Clayton Proffitt, and Tanner Barnhart will see significant upgrades in their roles this year.

Hilleary and Barnhart, both listed at 6’3, will bring size and physicality to a team that lost a great deal of it in graduating seniors.

Players who will contribute as they get their first varsity experience are seniors Keaton Brown, Parker Conrad and Colin Place and sophomores Ethan Brown and Nate Jackson.

Conrad and Place will give the Cougars an increased presence in the post, while Keaton Brown will be looked at as a versatile piece that can guard multiple positions.

Brown and Jackson are a pair of versatile guard who will be looked to as shot creators and players who can present a variety of options on the defensive side of the ball.

Seniors Kolby Barnhart and 6'5 240 pound big man Spencer Adams round out the Van Wert roster.

“There may be times that teams are more talented, but we will play together and compete each night in order to find a way to win,” said Head Coach Ben Laudick. “As you watch this team play and develop over the course of a long season, you will see a great group of kids who like each other, share the ball, and will give their best effort during every second of every game.”

The Cougars will play a demanding schedule this season through the strength of the WBL as well as a MAC heavy non-conference schedule facing opponents like St Henry, Parkway, Marion Local, Coldwater and Delphos St John’s.

Van Wert will first face cross town rival and defending division four state champion Crestview in their opening game of the season tonight in Convoy.