Blue Devils have potential

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Jamie McMahon

Independence returns just two starters from last season but the Blue Devils have plenty of talent and enthusiasm.

Head coach Hugh McMahon enters his sixth season at the school with a fresh outlook on the program and rising expectations.

“I find this year’s team to be refreshing,” McMahon said. “They have a youthful enthusiasm. They enjoy getting after each other in practice. They are physical and aggressive. They share the ball. Most importantly, I see them helping each other get better.”

McMahon also has more depth at his disposal than in years past.

“We are a deep team,” he said. “We will rotate 10-11 young men. I like our guards’ understanding of what we want to do, and I think we have added some physicality and the ability to score inside.”

Wyatt Flynn, a 6-foot-5 junior center, and Jamie McMahon, a 6-foot-2, forward/guard, return to the starting lineup.

Flynn earned second-team All-Chagrin Valley Conference and All-Northeast Ohio honorable mention honors while McMahon was an honorable mention selection in both.

“Wyatt is an athletic big man, who can run the floor,” Coach McMahon said. “He has worked hard on his perimeter game this offseason. We expect to be a team leader. Jamie is our most knowledgeable and experienced player having started the last two years. We will count on him to be our steadying influence at both ends of the court.”

Juniors Thomas Ceculski and Jake Mitrisin are slated to fill two guard spots.

“Thomas has excellent athletic ability and developed as a leader and point guard,” McMahon said. “Jake developed last year into a varsity rotation player. He is best in the open court and continues to work hard on his half-court game.”

Senior Connor Synek, a 6-foot-3 post, will make his high school debut after missing the past three seasons with injuries.

“Connor is team captain and has yet to play a game for IHS at any level due to injury,” McMahon said. “His presence on and off the court is inspirational. He is a big, strong, athletic young man, which adds a unique dimension to the team.”

Senior Nathan Steffas, a 5-foot-10 guard, will provide valuable minutes.

“Nathan has had a good offseason as a team leader,” McMahon said. “He has excelled on the defensive end and at the arc.”

Sophomores Adam Miklovic, Eric Mitrisin, Connor Blum and Matt Richards and freshman Kyle Zygmunt provide depth for the Blue Devils.

Miklovic is a 6-foot forward while Mitrisin is a 5-foot-8 guard.

“Adam missed most of last season with an ankle injury. He was able to return to practice for the playoffs. As a middle linebacker on the football Adam brings an aggressive, physical game to our team,” McMahon said. “Connor is a skilled athlete. He has excellent guard skills. He is best when he is physical.”

Richards is a 6-foot-1 guard/forward and Zygmunt is a 6-foot guard.

“Matt is a smart player. He is at his best when he is aggressive on both ends of the court,” McMahon said. “Kyle is a highly-skilled offensive player. He has great flow to his game from all three threats. As he grows more comfortable with our systems and varsity basketball, Kyle will be an impact player in the CVC and beyond.”

With its depth, Independence has the ability to finish near the top of the CVC and also to make a run into the postseason.

For that to happen, the Blue Devils have to play consistently and give maximum effort on every play and especially on defense.

“We are a young, although spirited team,” McMahon said. “Our intensity on the defensive end will be a key to working through any initial growing pains.”

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The creator and publisher of OhioVarsity.com, Hare has covered high school sports in Northeast Ohio since 1997. He began as a correspondent for the Lake County News Herald, where he contributed until 2011, primarily covering high school football and wrestling. In 1999, Hare began writing for IrishIllustrated.com, a member of the Scout.com network of high school and college sports web sites. He focuses on covering Notre Dame football recruiting. OhioVarsity.com was created in 2004 and was a member of the Rivals.com network until 2012. The site's original purpose was to cover Ohio high school football and recruiting news but since has grown to cover all sports and to provide sports information services to high school athletic programs and individual teams. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.