Boys prep hoops preseason countdown: #5 SOUTH SIDE ARCHERS
J.J. Foster coached against many of his new South Side High School players when he ran the Bishop Luers program the last few years.
He’s known many from over the years in summer-league basketball, too.
But the key for this year’s Archers, one loaded with potential, is for Foster and his players to become comfortable with each other.
“Walking into a new environment, you bring a different philosophy of coaching,” Foster said. “They have to learn me. It’s almost like starting over. We’ll have to learn each other.”
The Archers have found out quickly that Foster runs a program based on the tried-and-true foundation of efficient teams.
“I’m an old-school coach, and it starts with the fundamentals,” Foster said. “With basketball, we break down it down the simplest form. It’s a simple game: Fundamentals, defense, rebounding, effort plays.”
The Archers return several players with varsity starting experience, and three players who accounted for 47.8 points per game: Trejean Didier (19.3), Mikale Stevenson (15.9) and Cortney Shorter (12.6).
South is also a veteran team, with nine seniors on the roster.
However, South struggled last season, finishing 5-14, so Foster will be taxed with building up confidence with the returning players as well as a few newcomers.
“I’m real impressed with the depth we have and the caliber of athletes and guys who want to play hard,” Foster said. “It could be very interesting. If we buy in and play together as a team, there are a lot of good possibilities.”
Just don’t ask Foster to estimate who many games the Archers will win in his first season.
“When I first got the job, one of the alumni said, during the interview, ‘What’s your prediction on the record for next year?’ I’m the wrong guy to ask,” Foster said. “I don’t do predictions. We’re going to play defense, work hard and represent the school well. That’s my prediction.”
The 6-foot-4 Shorter can be a perimeter threat at small forward. He pulled down 3.4 rebounds per game to go with his 12.6 points per game and he hit 38 percent from three-point range. Fellow senior Brandan Eldridge, at 6-foot, is the leading returning rebounder at 4.2 per game.
The Archers have a 6-8 transfer from Warsaw in senior Asher Blum (4.8 points per game last season) and an improving 6-7 senior in Amari Hall, who averaged 5.0 points and 4.1 rebounds per game last season.
“(Hall) has a college physique on him and a good disposition,” Foster said. “If he buys in and stays in condition, he can be real good.”
Other frontcourt players are senior Damarque Perkins and sophomore JT Langston Jr.
Didier and Stevenson have the potential to be as good as any backcourt combination. Didier hit 58 of 141 threes (41 percent) last season and Stevenson was 30 of 89 (34 percent) from three-point range. Stevenson dished out a team-high 6.3 assists per game and Didier averaged 3.7 assists per game.
“I’d like to work with Tre coming off screens and get him moving,” Foster said. “He likes to stand when he doesn’t have the ball in his hands. We need to run him off screens, get him to his sweet spot and take advantage of what he can do as a shooter.”
They’ll be joined in the backcourt by seniors Marcalin Hairston, Dion Goodwell and Everett Merritt and freshman Austin Jordan.
THE BIG QUESTION
Can the Archers make the biggest turnaround of any team in the Summit Athletic Conference?
If all goes well, the Archers should be able to come close to reversing their 5-14 record of a year ago. Foster has a team loaded with seniors and capable offensive players. If he can generate the defense-first approach that he has often employed as a coach, he could have a team capable of competing for “second-best to North Side” status in the city. The backcourt of Didier and Stevenson should be one of the best in the area.
BIG GAME TO WATCH
It won’t be long before South finds out what type of team it has with back-to-back home games against North Side and Zionsville on Dec. 8 and Dec. 9. North went to the state title game last season and Zionsville was 18-7. If South can compete against these two teams – even if both games result in losses – the Archers will have something to build upon moving forward. Another game to watch early will be at Northrop on Dec. 15.