GALION — Practice for the upcoming boys basketball season has started under third-year coach Matt Valentine. Valentine is 11-35 overall, while leading his squads to a 6-20 mark within the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference.
In the 2018-19 season, the Tigers welcome back five returning letterwinners. Three were starters from last season. Galion also lost three players to graduation.
The returning starters for Galion — junior Isaiah Alsip and seniors Gage Lackey and Jack McElligott — will likely take on the same role for the team as they did a season ago. Other lettermen returning for the blue and orange are senior Tristan Williams and sophomore Carter Keinath.
“Isaiah was the second leading scorer in the MOAC last season (16.8 points per game) and returns as a two-year starter for us,” said Valentine. “He is coming off of an unbelievable, record-setting football season and has only gotten stronger and faster and will be a handful for anyone that tries to contain him this year. In my opinion, he may be the best athlete in the league this year as he can shoot the ball from anywhere and has excellent court vision.”
Alsip played his way to first-team, all-conference honors, as well as Division II honorable mention honors.
“Lackey is a returning starter and will out-play anyone on any chance that he gets,” Valentine said. “With his energy, length and the ability to to score around the rim, he will be a big part of our success this season. We will need him to score and rebound as well as be a threat on both ends of the court.”
Lackey tied for third in blocks in the league a season ago, averaging one block per contest and was also named to the all-conference second team.
“Jack (McElligott) is coming off an amazing golf season and is always able to play under pressure,” Valentine said. “He brings good length and a high basketball IQ to our team, and will surely be the leader that we need him to be on the court. He can shoot the ball for a high percentage and, more importantly, has the ability to get to the rim and finish as good as anyone on this team.”
With the graduation of Colten Skaggs, Williams will get his chance to be the big man on the block for the Tigers.
“Seniors tend to play at a different level and a lot of that has to do with self-confidence,” Valentine said. “We need just that from Tristan for us to accomplish our No. 1 goal. Every night, we will need Tristan to get up and down the floor, rebound the basketball and score on the blocks, which he has shown he can do.”
In addition to Skaggs, Colton Powell and Nate Eckert graduated. Also gone from the lineup due to transfer is defensive spark plug Zhamir Anderson.
“We will be a more experienced, resilient team this season,” Valentine said. “Our x-factor this season will be our uptempo, quick-hitting style on both ends of the court. Wee plan on playing hard and fast, allowing the kids to showcase their abilities. The concern we have is our depth, as high school basketball is a long season. Kids get hurt and kids get sick and if this happens, we will have some young players that will have to step up for us and be ready to go.”
A newcomer to watch out for this winter is junior Stephen Thompson. Thompson, the goalie for the Galion boys soccer team, has decided to come out for the season and “gives ups that true post player that we have been lacking for years. His size, strength and ability to get up and down the floor is just the piece that we need,” his coach said.
The season starts for the Tigers on Friday, Nov. 30 when they hit the road to play Bucyrus. MOAC play kicks off for Galion on Friday, Dec. 7 when they travel to Marion for a meeting with Pleasant, last season’s conference champions.