Chagrin Falls returns four starters from the team that won the Chagrin Valley Conference Chagrin Division title last season.
The Tigers also will count on several newcomers this season to provide depth and quality moments. It’s those that could determine just how successful the team can be in 2020-2021.
“With four returning starters, we have all the tools to have another successful season,” said Chagrin Falls coach Dave Bargar, who is in his 16th year as head coach and 31st at the school. “We have several players that we are counting on this season that have limited or no varsity experience and not having a summer or any scrimmages to evaluate everyone will be challenging. The quicker those guys can adjust to the varsity game, the better off we will be. We have a lot of work ahead in order to get to the level fundamentally that we need to be successful.”
Chagrin Falls will set out this season to defend its league title, but the Tigers don’t want to stop there.
“Our goals every year are to practice like champions, compete with intensity and toughness, play with togetherness and show continued improvement,” said Bargar, who picked up his 200th career win last season. “If we do those things, we will put ourselves into position to make another run at the CVC title. We have a challenging schedule, so hopefully, that will benefit us down the road.”
All four of Chagrin Falls’ returning starters earned all-league honors last season.
Josh Norton, a 6-foot-2 senior guard, and Xavier Perez, a 5-foot-11 senior guard, both return after being named first-team All-CVC last season.
Norton averaged 10.5 points, 8.9 rebounds and 5.2 assists as a junior.
“Josh is our leader that has an impact on everyone around him with the way he plays,” Bargar said. “After playing the four-spot his first two varsity seasons, Josh will take over our point guard duties this year. His intelligence, passing ability and ball-handling skills will help him be successful in that role. Josh works hard defensively, is a terrific rebounder, has a good mid-range game and can finish at the rim. He has also done a good job of improving his 3-point consistency, which will make him even more dangerous out front. Josh will be a main reason we have success this year.”
Perez scored 10.8 points with 3.0 steals per game last year.
“Xavier is entering his third year as a varsity starter this year,” Bargar said. “He is an extremely dynamic player with good quickness and athleticism. Offensively, Xavier is very good in the open court, can get to the basket, and has the ability to shoot the 3-pointer. On the defensive end, Xavier has an impact on the game with his quickness and ability to get his hands on the ball. He will play a big part in our success this year.”
Tate Yonker, a 6-foot senior guard, and Jack McMullen, a 6-foot-3 senior forward, both were named honorable mention All-CVC last season.
Yonker averaged 9.5 points per game.
“Tate had an outstanding season as a first-year starter and he continues to make great strides in his game,” Bargar said. “He is an extremely versatile offensive player and has the ability to score in a variety of ways. Tate has a very good mid-range game; he is our most consistent 3-point shooter and is very good at finishing at the rim with either hand. Tate has a great work ethic and I think he has a chance to take a major step forward and should have an even bigger impact on our team this season.”
McMullen finished his junior season with 7.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.
“Jack has the chance to make the greatest impact on our team from a year ago,” Bargar said. “He is very strong and athletic around the basket with great hands and footwork. His ability to finish consistently will allow him to make an even greater impact this year. Jack runs the floor very well, can score around the rim and is very smart. Jack has a terrific work ethic and provides our team with toughness and a physical presence inside. He will play a big role in our success again this season.”
Jack Stauffer, a 6-foot-3 senior forward, rounds out the projected starting lineup.
Stauffer averaged 3.0 points and 2.5 rebounds per game as a junior.
“Jack did a nice job last year giving us depth in the frontcourt and we hope will take the next step this season,” Bargar said. “Jack is very athletic and can get out and run the floor well. Offensively, he moves well without the ball, has a soft touch around the basket, and we think has the ability to step out and make a 3-pointer. Defensively, he is active and does a good job rebounding the ball. Jack should continue to get better and we expect him to have a good year for us.”
Providing depth for the Tigers are seniors Ian Zitney, Sam Crandall, Mikey Amendola, Jack Kane and Owen Lewis, juniors Henry Newell and Ryan Castellucio, and sophomores James Kosmides and Nicholas Vinci.
Kosmides, a 6-foot-4 forward, and Zitney, a 6-foot-2 forward, should be among the first off the bench as they fight for a starting role.
“James will compete for a starting spot this year and has a chance to be a very good player for us moving forward. He has great potential to impact our team in a variety of ways once he becomes consistent with his skill set. James is a long defender that has tremendous shot-blocking ability. He can run the floor, score inside and stretch the court with the ability to shoot the 3. Once James gets comfortable with the speed and physicality at the varsity level, he will be a key component in our success,” Bargar said. “Ian was able to get some varsity experience last year and is in position to compete for a spot in our rotation this season. His strength is his explosiveness in the open court and his ability to finish at the rim. Ian plays with an edge and is a very tough defender that can guard multiple positions. We think Ian has a chance to help us this year with his athleticism and competitiveness.”
Newell, a 6-foot forward, and Amendola, a 5-foot-8 guard, also should make an impact this winter.
“Henry is coming off a very good JV season and will compete for time in our rotation on the wing. Henry is a long defender that has a chance to help us on that end of the floor. Offensively, he moves well without the ball and fits very well into what we try to do. Henry is very good at taking the ball to the basket and he has shown good improvement in his 3-point shot. We think that he will help our team this year and in the future,” Bargar said. “Mikey will compete for time at point guard this year. He has a good feel for the game and does a nice job of making plays when he is on the court. Mikey handles the ball well and is a good shooter from 3-point range. Once he gets a handle on our system, we think he will do a good job for us this season.”
Crandall, a 6-foot forward, and Vinci, a 5-foot-10 guard, should help the Tigers on the offensive end.
“Sam is an extremely smart player that does many of the little things that allow us to be successful and gives us depth at multiple positions. He is fundamentally sound when he plays and makes good decisions on the court. Last year, Sam showed great improvement in his ability to make the 3 and we hope that will continue this year,” Bargar said. “Nicholas has the chance to be very good for us this year and in the future. He plays with a toughness that you don’t normally see with younger players. Nicholas does a good job of getting to the basket and can finish with contact. Once he becomes more consistent with his outside shot, he will be a dangerous offensive weapon.”
Castelluccio, a 5-foot-10 guard, will bolster the Tigers’ backcourt.
“Ryan is an extremely smart and savvy player on the court,” Bargar said. “All of the little things that he brings to a team are invaluable to their success. Ryan will compete for time in our backcourt at multiple positions this year. He is a good passer, makes great decisions and doesn’t make many mistakes. Ryan has done a good job of becoming more aggressive on the offensive end of the floor that will help him succeed in the future.”
Lewis, a 5-foot-11 forward, returns to the lineup after missing his junior season with an injury. Kane, a 5-foot-9 guard, is new to the program.
“(Lewis) is an extremely hard-working player that affects our team in many ways. Owen is a great teammate that has an energy that people feed off. He works hard on the defensive end of the floor and will do anything asked of him to help the team,” Bargar said. “(Kane) will give us depth at the guard spot and some perimeter shooting. Jack competes hard on both ends of the floor and will do anything to help the team win. We are glad that Jack is part of our program.”
As defending league champions, the Tigers enter the 2020-21 season with a big bulls-eye on their backs.
Their talent, experience and depth should allow them to again have a say in who wins the Chagrin Division title.
“Our team is very well-balanced,” Bargar said. “We have some length defensively and good chemistry offensively. We also have some good athletes that play well in the open court. As always, we will look to be versatile defensively and play to our strengths on the offensive end by being unselfish.”
To achieve their goals this season, the Tigers will have to play well on the defensive end to set up their transition game and focus on the fundamentals under the hoop to win the battle on the boards and to take advantage of high-percentage shots.
“In order for us to be successful on a consistent basis, we will need to defend at a high level each game,” Bargar said. “We will need to get out in transition and get easy baskets and that starts with our defense. We will need to do a good job of executing our offense and using our unselfishness to our advantage. We will also need to focus on rebounding at both ends of the floor.”