After losing the school’s second all time leading scorer, Creston opens up its season at home tonight against Winterset.
The Panthers 2018-’19 season was focused around Kylan Smallwood. He averaged 21.3 points per game and scored 447 of the team’s 1,254 points. Smallwood graduated and plays at Midland University (NAIA) where he splits time at guard and forward.
Creston head coach Bryce Schafer knows that no individual that can replace that piece of the puzzle.
“You can’t replace him with any one person for sure,” said Schafer. “He added so much that people don’t even see on the stat board because teams have to game plan for him. Now they’re going to have to game plan for multiple people. I look to see that scoring spread out to three or four players, that 21 points per game.
Those three or four guys that Schafer expects to step up are Cael Kralik, Brance Baker, Colby Burg and Camden Peterson. Kralik, Baker and Burg all contributed offensively last season. Together, the trio combined for 27.6 points per game – Kralik (11.5), Baker (10.8) and Burg (5.3). Peterson missed the entire season after suffering a torn ACL.
“We are a new team now, and we just have to be what we are,” said Schafer. “He (Smallwood) was a great contributor for us and now he’s doing great things in college. … Those four guys are going to be our scoring load, and then we’ll have a bunch of other guys that contribute two, four, six points here and there as we go throughout the season. I don’t think we’ll have a scoring drop off, it’ll just be spread amongst many more players.”
Creston comes into the season with only four seniors. Despite the lack of upperclassmen, Schafer said an aspect of this Panther team to look out for is their leadership.
“We’ve got a lot of guys that aren’t vocal leaders, but will contribute to the leadership role as well in that juniors class,” said Schafer. “Brance Baker, Colby Burg, those are two other guys that I think will lead by example. Maybe won’t be as vocal as our others, but will lead by example and do what we need to do. I think we’ve got a really good core to lead the whole program.”
Leading by example, Baker and Burg did the less obvious work for the Panthers last season. Baker was second on the team in rebounds with 114, 34 offensively. Burg paired with Baker to lead the team facilitating the ball. Baker led the team in assists with 61, and Burg wasn’t far behind with 44.
With the box for on the court leadership checked off, every great team has a vocal leader. For the Panthers, Schafer said its Pederson.
“He was out all last year with a torn ACL, and then it didn’t take, and he had to have a second ACL surgery as well,” said Schafer. “Even last year he was a vocal leader for us. Never got to play a minute, never got to practice a minute.”
New team, New style
Through the first few weeks of practice, Schafer said “effort” was one of the major characteristics that his team showed.
“That’s big early on, especially coming out of other sports seasons,” said Schafer. “Basketball is a grinding season. It’s long and [the team had] great enthusiasm and great effort as we came in.”
The Panthers are going to need that effort as things are starting to change within the program. In the past, it was an older style offense as things took time to develop offensively.
Schafer looks to change that as conditioning and a change of tempo are major focal points for the Panthers 2019-20 team.
“We’re not moving the ball slow anymore,” said Schafer. “We’re picking the pace up and being a good transition team. They’ve bought in early on and we’ve been running their butts off, so I’ve just been excited about that attitude of this team.”
With that attitude and ideal change comes how Creston sets the offense up. The Panthers are going to have smaller players on the floor since they don’t have many traditional big men.
“We will be guard heavy. We’ve got two or three really quality bigs,” said Schafer. “And when I say bigs, I’ve got one 6-foot-5inch, one 6 -foot-4-inch and that’s about it. Everybody else we’re playing 6-foot, 6-foot-1 inch across the board.”
With those guards, it allows for the offensive to do exactly what Schafer wants to do, push the ball up the floor with a fast pace of play. Schafer said that the Panthers are a good shooting team, so they’ll be playing four guards and one big often.
With the understanding of where his team is compared to last, Schafer knows he can’t do everything at once and knowing where his team can propel the Panthers to a strong season.
“It’s a building process and early on I was trying to get too much in at once, and I wasn’t getting anything in,” said Schafer. “I think just slowing down and understanding that it’s a grind has really helped me.”
The Panthers play tonight at 7:30 against Winterset to open the season.
Dec. 2 – Winterset, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 3 – at Atlantic, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 9 – at Bondurant-Farrar, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 10 – at St. Albert Catholic, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 13 – Atlantic, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 14 – at Gallatin, 8:30 p.m.
Dec. 17 – at Shenandoah, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 20 – Glenwood, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 3 –Clarinda, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 6 – Chariton, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 10 – at Denison-Schleswig, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 13 – at Red Oak, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 14 – Treynor, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 17 – at Lewis Central, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 21 – Shenandoah, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 24 – at Kuemper Catholic, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 28 – at Glenwood, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 31 – Harlan Community School, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 7 – Red Oak, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 14 – at Harlan Community School, 7:30 p.m.