Boys basketball: Hanover buying into new coach’s brand of basketball
By Mike Hutton 648-3139 or email@example.com December 6, 2012 11:22PM
Head coach Bryon Clouse watches over practice Thursday afternoon at Hanover Central. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 8, 2013 6:28AM
CEDAR LAKE — It’s way too early in the Hanover Central coaching career of Bryon Clouse to point to pivotal moments.
There are lots of curves and bumpy roads to be traversed yet for the Wildcats program after Clouse arrived last spring after six seasons at Lake Station.
The win against Lowell in the season opener was nice, unexpected even. Trailing by 10 in the third quarter, the Wildcats did exactly what Clouse wanted them to do.
They stayed the course. They played solid defense. They blocked out. They were patient and calm on offense.
Most importantly, they got results. The Wildcats won their toughest game of the young season so far on the road in a small upset of sorts. Nothing huge. But still, the 44-43 victory was meaningful for Clouse.
His kids had bought in. They were on board with what he was teaching them. Anyone can talk a good game about team unity and cooperation and about how it’s going well for the new coach, but the test comes on the floor in real competition, not practice. Clouse didn’t have any idea how it was going to go.
“We didn’t chuck up 3s, we played tough defense, we had a few things go our way and we didn’t get crazy on offense,” Clouse said. “It was a nice opening win for us.”
For as young and hip as Clouse may seem —he is 36 — he is surprisingly conservative.
He can recall having just one team that he let run at Lake Station. The scores in the 40s are perfect for his style.
His teams play nothing but man-to-man defense — the sagging, Bobby Knight variety when necessary.
His kids all wear the same tie on game days and the same set of baby blue shoes during games.
And he doesn’t suffer bad shots on offense with just a shrug of the shoulders. For him, the ill timed brick is a call for the next man in.
His assistants are all older (Yes, former Valparaiso coach Bob Punter is still with him) by a few decades.
The new culture is a 180 degree turnaround from last year’s running, pressing Hanover Central Wildcats — a team that was built around high scoring guard Nick Bollenbacher, the son of Rod Bollenbacher, the coach for five years there.
The buy-in definitely has worked.
Dan Kubiak, a 6-2 senior guard, likes the new style.
“Last year, it was about who could score more points and run out and get more shots,” he said. “It was more of a risky game. I think this will work better for us over the course of a season.”
It should help the team milk its relative lack of depth.
The Wildcats are only using six players. Oddly enough, they still haven’t adjusted to their 3A status. They made the move up to the higher class last year. Clouse doesn’t even have a paid assistant, something that most 2A schools have. He had to fundraise to get money for Punter.
“I thought the commitment was poor,” he said of the summer turnout.
Despite living in a growing community, the Wildcats only had 21 players out for the freshman, junior varsity and varsity teams.
Those numbers are up from last year, when they couldn’t even field a freshman team.
Clouse said the summer basketball games were a challenge when he was bringing six players for as many as four games per day.
He’s not quite sure why more players aren’t out but he thinks it will improve. They have a new middle school that should help. At Lake Station, a 2A school, the Eagles easily fielded three teams. The junior class at Hanover only has one player.
“It wasn’t what I expected,” he said. “I thought we’d have more kids.”
Max Johnson, a senior who has played in the system since grade school, said it’s just part of the culture. Kids at Hanover are more interested in baseball.
“Basketball just isn’t a dominant sport,” he said.
The players Clouse has are good.
Johnson, a 6-1 senior, has stepped out of the shadows of Nick Bollenbacher as the best Wildcats player.
Johnson is the prototype of what you’d expect a Clouse guard to be —efficient and smart. He is averaging 17.1 points per game and he has made 7 of 12 3-point shots (58 percent) and 11 of 12 free throws.
“He is a stud,” Clouse said. “I saw him play when he was a sophomore. I couldn’t believe how good he was when I got here.
“If that’s what he said, then OK,” Johnson said.
Sean Kelly, a transfer from Crown Point, has fit in nicely as an inside presence for Hanover.
And Kubiak is the Wildcats’ other double-figure scorer. He averages 13 points per game. The table is set for the Wildcats to go undefeated through their first five games. Kankakee Valley and Griffith on Dec. 14 and 15 look like their toughest early-season opponents.
The Wildcats have high expectations. They definitely want to win the Porter County Conference title in their last season before they switch over to the Greater South Shore Conference.
“We have lofty goals,” Clouse said. “We are really pushing ourselves. We want to win the PCC and be one of the class programs in 3A.”