Chelsea Hornets 2017-18 basketball preview

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

Despite not winning a single area game during the 2016-17 basketball season, Chelsea head coach Nick Baumbaugh feels confident in what his 2017-18 squad will bring to the table.

That confidence comes even with the loss of leading everything Joseph Lanzi, who averaged 17.6 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.8 steals per game. All of which were team highs except for rebounding.

Marquet has also graduated, leaving the Hornets without their top two players and scorers from last season.

“Those guys are invaluable, not just from their production on the floor, but especially Joe in practice,” Baumbaugh said. “He was able to help lead the younger kids in the preseason stuff, which is kinda what we’re going through now. He was vocal, a leader and led by example.”

That’s something Baumbaugh said will be tough to replace from his four-year starter, as well as Marquet’s three years of varsity starting experience.

Younger brothers Matthew Lanzi and Robert Marquet, both juniors, will oddly enough look to step in as contributors to help replace their older siblings.

“It’s funny, we talk about the Lanzi’s and Marquet’s leaving, but their younger brothers are really stepping up right now,” Baumbaugh said.

Robert had an incredible summer according to his head coach and while Matthew Lanzi was injured during the summer, he has looked great this fall in practice.

“Matthew will be a high energy player for us that defends the ball and crashes the glass extremely hard, while Robert will be a shooter for us,” Baumbaugh said. “Those two have just been really, really good this summer and this fall.”

While those two second generation players will do a good job of stepping in and specifically adding depth, three others have looked great as well and seem to be frontrunners as far as leading the team.

Seniors Tyler Coleman, Sam Towery and Josh Hanna are set in the starting lineup and Baumbaugh expects big things. A large reason for his confidence is because Towery and Hannah are both three-year starters, while Coleman started a big chunk of last year and has loads of athleticism.

“We’re expecting big things from (Towery),” Baumbaugh said. “We’re most excited about him because he can do a lot of things. He’s fundamentally sound on both ends of the floor and leads by example, which is what excites us the most.”

Having averaged 5.2 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game last year, Towery will be the leading producer back on this year’s squad.

Hanna also had a solid year last season and will actually be the leading returning scorer and rebounder coming off a season where he averaged 6.3 points and five rebounds per game.

Coleman had the ability to average double figures last season and can be one of the most athletic players on the floor at times, but failed to take over that second leading role last year.

Tyler Coleman plays defense on Helena’s Justin Stuckey, a matchup we may see this season. (File)

This season, he’ll be looked at as a leader along with those other two, creating somewhat of a big three. Coleman will bring back 5.7 points and 3.4 rebounds per game this season.

Senior Jonah Moore is another returning guy and brings back a tall body to the lineup at 6-foot-6. Last season he averaged 3.3 points and 2.2 rebounds, but led the team with 33 blocks, which shows his defensive ability.

Another player with a lot of length and size is junior Daniel Washington, who stands close to 6-foot-5. Baumbaugh said he is challenging for a starting job and will be a key contributor.

“Where Josh is the more athletic player, Daniel is the more basketball minded guy,” Baumbaugh said. “They both bring completely different things to the table that will benefit what we want to do this year.”

While Chelsea is losing eight seniors from last year’s team, this year’s group of five, including center Cole Glandon, may be one of the best senior classes Baumbaugh has seen in his 10 years at the helm.

“That senior group is such a tight nit group and they’re excited that it’s their year,” he said. “When they were freshmen they got kind of split a little bit and last year we were so senior heavy, that they haven’t gotten the chance to be together on the court in a few years.

“This group is hungry and their goals are really, really high. Obviously we want to win the area because that’s where everything starts. But these guys have talked openly and want to be playing for a chance to go to the BJCC.”

Baumbaugh said several guys are hitting the gym on Sundays for two hours and at other times to get extra work in outside of his set practices and gym time so they can back up their lofty goals.

“They know that if they want to get to the next level, that they have to do more than what I’m asking of them and so far, they’ve been putting in that work to be great,” Baumbaugh said.

Chelsea still sits in a difficult area and knows his competing coaches, Chris Laatsch and Joel Floyd, will have their teams fighting hard for that area title as well.

Baumbaugh said to expect a similar style of defensive play that’s physical within the rules on the defensive side of the ball. He did admit he hasn’t seen the defensive effort yet that he wants to, but has told his team to step it up.

Offensively, unlike last year where they relied a lot on Lanzi, it will be more of a balanced effort this season with so many threatening players that can score and move the ball.

The Hornets will open the season on Thursday, Nov. 9, at 7:30 p.m. when they travel to Vestavia Hills. Their first home matchup will come a few days later at home against Gardendale on Nov. 14.