VAN WERT — Last winter saw the Cougars boys basketball team have their best season under head coach Mark Bagley. The 2017-18 Cougars went 13-11 overall and 5-4 in the WBL before losing to state-ranked Wauseon in Districts. With four returning starters and riding the wave of confidence the football team has instilled in the school, Bagley and the Cougars look to be even better this winter.

Though they are returning four starters, there will be a huge gap to fill due to the fact that Jacoby Kelly graduated. Kelly was a four year starter and currently sits at 7th all time in Van Wert scoring history with 1,098 career points. He was first team All-WBL, NW District and honorable mention All-State. They also lost some key locker room guys in Johnathan Lee and Thane Cowan.

Returning to the fold will be Nate Place, who has proved to be one of the best athletes in the WBL on the football field but also has the ability to shine on the hardwood. Place averaged 15 points per game as a sophomore and 11 as a junior. His explosive speed grants him the ability to get the ball to the rim. Coach Bagley has noted that Place has developed as a shooter and has also added strength to help him improve his game as well.

Drew Bagley averaged 11 points and six rebounds last season. Listed at 6’4 220 lbs, Bagley has the size to play in the paint, but the skill set to play the perimeter. Blake Henry, who is listed at 6’6 170 is looking to have a break out year, as his size and athletic ability will grant him the chance to do so. Finally returning to the lot will be Owen Treece. Treece, now a sophomore, started last season and looks to help again this year. Mark Bagley stated that Treece has worked hard to get stronger and has added skill. He adds a great amount of range to the starting lineup.

Among the ranks, joining the team this winter will be Lawson Blackmore, who is returning to the program and just signed to play baseball at Miami after he graduates. Tanner Barnhart, who will play an instrumental role in providing depth this season with his energy and athletic ability. Clayton Proffitt is a sharp shooter, with the brains to play both guard positions. Jake Hilleary, who will play down low and isn’t afraid to bump around in the paint. And finally LeTrey Williams, who is an explosive and talented point guard. As a sophomore he looks to contribute in any way necessary.

“The complexion of our team will be speed, quickness, size and athleticism,” said Cougar head coach Mark Bagley. “We hope to have the ability to score from all five spots on the floor and to improve our consistency from the perimeter as we look to play fast and attack the defense inside and out.”

With the roster make up being so versatile, the Cougars have the ability to create miss-matches and exploit their opponents defense in several ways. To have success this year, they will need to rebound better— on offense and defense.

As always the Cougars will play a demanding schedule. The WBL will be as tough as ever, with Shawnee and Ottawa-Glandorf near the top— though Defiance, Wapakoneta and Kenton should be tough as well. The local schools look to be as tough as ever in Crestview, Lincolnview and Wayne Trace. They also have Lima Central Catholic, St. Henry and Division IV State Champion Marion Local on the schedule.

“We have dedicated ourselves this year to live up to our motto of ‘Play the man,” said Bagley. “We have to improve our mental and physical toughness by ‘Doing today well.”

The Cougars open their season off with Lincolnview on December 1.