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TMP boys look to produce more offense

By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

In the last six seasons, Thomas More Prep-Marian boys' basketball has amassed a 63-65 record. The program has had years where multiple sophomores have started. Two of the seasons had large senior classes. The program has oscillated between six and 14 wins. However, one area remains similar: the Monarchs have had trouble scoring.

No one in the last six years has averaged more than 13 points a contest. No player in the last three seasons is over 10 points a game. Coach Joe Hertel, in his 29th season, has a defensive-first philosophy. However, in every summer and preseason practice for the 2013-14 season, Hertel advocated a different approach.

"You want minutes, prove to me that you can score, because our program has lacked it now for too long," Hertel said. "This is so crazy, because it is totally black and white mirror image difference from my deep personal philosophy, that is, if you can't play defense, you can't get on the court. But now, anybody who can score, I will find a way to hide you somewhere on defense. It's been such a struggle."

Last season, a young group went 8-12 and lost to Minneapolis in the first round of sub-state. TMP graduated senior guard Shane Zimmerman, the team's floor general and leader, who significantly led the team with 27 minutes, 3.5 assists and 66 steals. He averaged 7.5 points a contest and shot 31 percent from the field. Finding leadership and guard play is the top question mark for much more experienced squad.

The Monarchs return their entire starting frontcourt in forwards Jordan Gottschalk, Ryan Mayorga and Cameron Fouts for a team that averaged 52.1 points per game, third-worst under Hertel. Fouts paced the Monarchs at 9.9 points per contest.

"Every one of those kids is capable of being a double-digit scorer," Hertel said. "Now whether they will or not is another thing, but they are capable of it. I can't help but think that we are going to have a little bit better scoring punch than we had a year ago."

Junior guard Kameron Schmidt can score in transition, while Hertel expects more from junior guard Max Megaffin, who has become much stronger physically in the last year. The Monarchs open against Class 6A Garden City in the 31st Annual Gerald Mitchell Hays City Shoot-Out at Hays Middle School. Start time is 8:15 p.m. Thursday. Last winter, a young, inexperienced squad with multiple players in their first varsity game took a big loss to Kearney, Neb. in the season opener.

"Surely, we won't be as panicky as we were last year against Kearney," Hertel said.

Gottschalk enjoyed a strong season last year and ranked as Hertel's best player in his statistical evaluation that computes more than 30 numbers.

He averaged 8.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and took 17 charges, second-most in the Hertel era. The team took 39 charges, the best with Hertel.

Hertel called Gottschalk a "less than mediocre" player when the senior first entered the program. While Gottschalk doesn't have the best athleticism or speed, he simply produces.

"He is an example for every kid with marginal ability and what you can get out of a high school career, because he has made the most of it," Hertel said.

"I would say that about his career even before his senior year starts. He has impressed me. He has a way of getting stuff done. It isn't pretty. It isn't flashy, but he gets stuff done."

Mayorga has suffered multiple injuries in his school career and played in just 15 games in 2012-13. He averaged 7.9 points per game and led the team in field goal percentage (53.1) and free throw shooting (78). The 6-foot-3 Mayorga can play inside and outside and is long, lean and athletic. Hertel wants more consistency on a game-by-game basis from the senior.

"It's just been so long since I have had such a good scoring club, that it's time," Hertel said.

Hertel plays to push the ball more frequently with Schmidt's skills. Schmidt averaged 5.5 points per game, but is a much stronger scorer inside the arc. The quicker pace could yield five to 10 more shots per game for the team.

Schmidt had some struggles last season defensively, but has "made considerable effort" to improve on that side.

"We haven't really shot the ball particularly well," Hertel said. "Ultimately then, getting up five to 10 more shots would perhaps suit us better in terms of finding some scoring punch."

Megaffin averaged just 10.2 minutes per game, but led the team with 16 3-pointers and averaged 3.4 points per contest.

"Transformed his body physically," Hertel said. "He is a big kid now. At the guard position, I think he should be able to board for us offensively. He has got a pretty nice shooting stroke."