First-year Geneva head coach Eric Bowser has a reason to be optimistic heading into the 2018-2019 season.
The Eagles return their entire starting lineup from last season and another starter who missed the second half of the season with an injury.
“Our guys are working hard and learning every day,” Bowser said. “I feel like we have an opportunity to improve upon last season’s record and keep the program headed in a positive direction.”
Geneva finished 12-10 overall last winter and 6-8 in the Chagrin Valley Conference.
The future certainly looks bright for the Eagles.
“Our strengths will certainly be our foot speed and athleticism,” Bowser said. “This should allow us to be solid on the defensive end of the floor, creating some turnovers and bad shots, and allowing us to pick up the pace a bit this year.”
With 10 players returning from the varsity squad, Bowser has up to seven different boys who could earn a starting role based on individual game matchups.
Returning starters include Nick Stoltz, Grant Mihalick, Dakota Harvey, Blake Peet and Vinnie Varckette.
Brandon Smith began the season in the starting lineup before suffering a season-ending knee injury.
Stoltz is a 6-foot guard/forward.
“Nick plays with about as much energy as I’ve ever seen anyone play this game,” Bowser said. “When you pair that with his well-rounded skill set, he’ll be one of the guys we’ll rely on to keep the engine going.”
Mihalick and Varckette are 5-foot-11 guards. Varckette also can slide down to the forward spot.
“Grant works extremely hard at his craft. His off-season commitment and development has turned him into a lethal shooter with excellent footwork on both the offensive and defensive end of the floor,” Bowser said. “Vinnie loves to play defense and his excellent footwork and court awareness allow him to fill the role as our lockdown guy. He works extremely hard on the defensive end but his solid jump shot and court vision allow him to contribute on the offensive end just as well.”
Smith is a 6-foot-1 guard while Harvey is a 5-foot-11 guard.
“It’s great to see Brandon back and looking healthy. He will handle the point for us when he’s on the floor. He’s got great handles and court vision and has worked hard to make his jump shot a solid weapon as well,” Bowser said. “Dakota’s quickness, foot speed, and jumping ability allow us to use him in many different spots within our defensive sets and our offensive flow. He uses his athleticism very well to be a creative and successful finisher at the rim.”
Peet is a 6-foot forward.
“Blake is the guy every coach loves to say they have on their squad,” Bowser said. “He’s the first guy on the floor after every loose ball, does not back down from any challenge and can athletically defend every position. Blake would run into a brick wall for us and is probably strong enough to make it through to the other side.”
Dawson Schafer, a 5-foot-8 guard, also could work his way into the starting lineup.
“His excellent ball handling skills make Dawson a benefit in any system,” Bowser said. “He’s not afraid to finish at the basket when the opportunity is there and has developed a solid 3-point shot over the last couple of seasons. On the defensive side of the ball, his quick hands and quick feet allow him to be a positive contributor to our scheme.”
Tyler Hartz, Tom Costello, A.J. Bowser and Caleb Nugent also are in a position to contribute this winter.
Hartz and Costello are 6-foot-3 senior forwards.
“Tyler’s length and skill set should allow him to help us defend the paint and get some easy buckets down low. He can also extend his game to the perimeter if necessary,” Coach Bowser said. “Tommy has an excellent motor and is not afraid to mix it up in the paint. A solid mid-range jumper should allow him to turn some of those long rebounds into buckets.”
A.J. Bowser is a 6-foot sophomore guard while Nugent is a 6-foot sophomore guard/forward.
“A.J. looks to contribute with his excellent footwork on the defensive end and solid court vision on the offensive side. He passes the ball well and can knock down the jump shot when the opportunity presents itself,” Coach Bowser said. “Caleb has a nice mix of inside and outside to his game. He’s developed a solid 3-point shot and also does a nice job of getting inside to pull down some rebounds and get easy buckets.”
Geneva has talent and depth but what the Eagles lack are the big bodies to control the paint.
That will force the Eagles to play disciplined and within their schemes.
“We’re certainly not going to be the biggest team on the floor,” Bowser said. “We’ll need to team rebound and stay fundamentally solid with our defensive schemes. If our energy level stays high, we should be able to make up for some of these inefficiencies.”
Should the Eagles stick to the game plan and play hard each night, success could follow.
“Our keys to victory this season will be tied directly to how hard we play every time we step on the floor and how well we jell as a team on the offensive end,” Bowser said. “We need to rebound, keep our pace up, and look for good shots. Defensively, if we keep playing with energy and build upon our defensive schemes from the last couple of years, we will be competitive.”