By Chris Metcalf
GENESEO – Third-year head coach Gregg Hepler returns to the bench this winter after guiding his Blue Devils to a 17-6 record a year ago.
Unfortunately, the loss of his three top players – Ethan Bennett, Ryan Whitney and Eghosa Okpefe – will leave this year’s squad with 40-plus points and 20-plus rebounds to replace.
But Hepler thinks this year’s squad will surprise some people, despite the loss of his three top players.
The lone remaining starter, senior guard Kellen O’Brien, returns after filling the stat sheet with eight points, five assists and four rebounds per game.
Also back is sophomore guard Oren Ray, who played significant minutes last year as a freshman and will be counted on heavily to help O’Brien.
Two other returners expected to contribute include seniors Owen McDonald (Guard/Forward) and Billy McMaster (Forward).
Top newcomers include some talented juniors in Caleb Rice (Guard), Jackson Willis (Guard), Reece Byrnes (Forward) and Luke Davis (Forward), along with sophomore Avery Hepler (Guard).
“With a completely different makeup, we are focused on the process and continuing to improve every practice and game,” coach Hepler said. “Last year we were bigger and stronger at almost every position. We are now almost the complete opposite. We will be very guard-heavy, smaller and quicker. Our JV team coached by Kory Wright and varsity team have had a lot of success the last two years and have graduated a lot. It will be a classic case of the next man up.”
Geneseo opens their season Tuesday, Nov. 28 at home against Alexander before hosting Livonia Friday, Dec. 1.
The Blue Devils will compete in the rugged LCAA D-II, which they won a year ago.
They will play sectional contenders Avon, York and Le Roy two times each.
“Our schedule is extremely tough and we will have our hands full, but we wouldn’t have it any other way,” coach Hepler said. “We will focus on the process and use every opportunity to get better in preparation for making a deep run in sectionals.”
Hepler’s confident this year’s squad will be fine, simply because they all seem to love the game of basketball.
“I am very excited about this year’s team,” coach Hepler said. “They work extremely hard, chemistry is great and they are very coachable. A lot of new faces to the varsity team, but they are all gym rats who love to play for each other.”