By David Fong
CASSTOWN — Bruce Vanover is used to waiting.
When he was the head boys basketball coach at Lehman High School, he grew accustomed to lengthy playoff runs by the Cavalier football team delaying the start of basketball season.
Now that he is the girls basketball coach at Miami East, he’s quickly getting used to the fact the volleyball team’s success — the Vikings went to the Division III regionals last year in his first year as coach and the Division III state semifinals this year — likely means he went have his full roster of players until right before hoops season starts.
“This was the first day we had a full team,” Vanover said Wednesday evening, just two days before the start of the season. “But my years at Lehman definitely helped. I’m pretty used to it. We didn’t even bother pushing back the start of the season. We are starting right on schedule. The problem with pushing back games is that if you get one or two games postponed because of snow, you could end up playing four games in the same week at the end of the season — and that’s no fun, either.”
Although his team got a late start because of the volleyball team’s deep postseason run, Vanover said it shouldn’t affect the Vikings too much — but that may have been a different story had it happened last year, his first as the Vikings’ head coach.
“If this would have been last year, it may have been a different story,” he said. “Last year everything we were doing was new, because I was new. This year when we ran drills, everyone knew what to do. They remember our offense. Defensively, we play man-to-man, and they remembered that. It wasn’t that bad.
“It also helps that I’m the only seventh grade math teacher at the junior high. Every kid that comes through the seventh grade has me for math — so unless a girl moves in and joins the team, I already know them, plus I’ve coached the girls track team for a number of years. So I know most of these girls and they know me.”
One thing that will be new for the Vikings is much of the personnel. The Vikings graduated four seniors from a team that went 15-10 and reached the Division III sectional finals last season. Miami East does return four seniors this season, but has just one junior, five sophomores and two freshmen on the varsity roster.
“We’re going to hang our hat on youth this year,” Vanover said.
Size won’t be a problem for the Vikings, as they have a pair of 6-footers in sophomores Haley Howard and Kyndall Hellyer and. Seniors Kati Runner, Karson Mahaney and Megan Kinnison all are 5-foot-10, while freshman Amber Kinnison is 5-foot-9.
Along with Runner, Mahaney and Megan Kinnison, East also has senior Megan Thompson. Emily Hawkins is the team’s lone junior. Joining Howard and Hellyer are sophomores Bailey Miller, Anna Jacomet and Kaitlyn Mack. Freshmen Amber Kinnison and Morgan Haney round out the Vikings’ roster.
Although just a freshman, Haney will get the starting nod at point guard for the Vikings.
“She’s just that missing link we’ve been lacking the past few years,” Vanover said. “We’ve been lacking a true point guard. It’s nice to have her — she can attack the basket, she can shoot and she can hand out assists.”
Thompson will start at shooting guard for Miami East.
“She’s a four-year varsity player and a great shooter,” Vanover said.
Miller will start at the small forward position.
“She’s a good outside shooter and a good on-ball defender,” Vanover said.
Megan Kinnison and Hellyer are battling it out for the starting spot at power forward, while Howard will start at center to begin the season. Mahaney also should see time in the post once she returns from injury. That means, in certain situations, East could start one senior, three sophomores and a freshman.
“Our younger kids are going to have to be ready to play right away,” Vanover said. “We’re OK with that. We’ve also got seven returning letterwinners, and we expect all of them to contribute, as well. Kati Runner is a very good post player. Amber Kinnison and Kaitlyn Mack are two more younger players who can contribute for us.”
All told, Vanover likes his team’s chance this season.
“We’re excited to get started,” he said. “We feel like we’ve got a lot of potential, but potential is just that. We’re looking to take the next step this season.”
Contact David Fong at [email protected]; follow him on Twitter @thefong