Riverside returns three senior starters from last year and the Beavers also have a host of others returning this winter with varsity experience.
Fourth-year head coach Matt Grendel is eager to see his squad on the court, whenever that day arrives.
“I am very excited for our team this year and looking forward to our season getting started here soon,” Grendel said. “We have a great group of kids that are enjoyable to coach. The boys have worked tremendously hard this offseason improving their individual skills and physical strength. The boys on the team truly love the game of basketball and have invested a lot into getting better every day. I continue to expect our team to get better every day and compete as hard as they can each day.”
Grendel will rely on that core group of seniors of Caden Geiger, Mason Stephens and Brett Fulton to provide the leadership and steady confidence the team will need to jell, especially early in the season.
That senior leadership will be more important than ever before as the team not only has to overcome a different game plan each night, but it will have to be diligent off the season as well to give the Beavers a chance at playing this winter.
“The experience from our older players blending with the younger players on the team has been great to see so far,” Grendel said. “The leadership of our older players will be something that we rely on, especially with this season being unlike any other we have had in the past. On the court, we hope to utilize our speed to play at a fast pace and get great shot opportunities each possession as well as make the opposing team uncomfortable when we are on defense.”
Geiger and Stephens both return after earning All-Western Reserve Conference honors last season.
Geiger, a 5-foot-8 guard, averaged 11 points, 2.6 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game. He also was named honorable mention all-district.
“Caden is one of the hardest-working players I have coached,” Grendel said. “He has improved significantly each year that I have coached him. He is a great role model for our program and a leader on the team. We will count on him to play significant minutes and lead our offense as the point guard. Caden’s biggest strength is his ability to get the basketball and finish around the hoop. He is also very unselfish and does a great job of setting up his teammates. His ability to create will often set up great opportunities for his teammates to score. We are very confident that something positive will happen when Cade has the ball in his hands. On the defensive side, Cade has the athleticism and strength to guard different positions. He can be a lockdown defender and we look forward to seeing him setting the tone on defense for us.”
Stephens, a 5-foot-10 guard, averaged 13.5 points with 2.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. He also earned honorable mention all-district honors.
“This will be Mason’s third year as a starter for us,” Grendel said. “He has a lot of experience, which will help him be successful this year. Mason’s biggest strength is his ability to score in transition. He gets up the court very quickly and does a nice job of getting to the basket. Mason also has a solid pull-up jumper, as well as range from the 3-point line. We will count on Mason to be productive offensively for us. Mason also has the ability to be a great defender. He is very quick and does a nice job of keeping his man in front of him.”
Fulton, a 6-foot-1 forward, dropped in eight points with 4.7 rebounds per game last season.
“Brett was a key member of our team last year and made a significant jump from his sophomore to junior year,” Grendel said. “He was our leading rebounder and third-leading scorer. We are looking forward to seeing that same growth this season. Brett finishes well around the hoop and puts himself in a good position to score around the basket. Defensively, Brett rebounds well and rotates well. We are looking to see Brett be a significant member of our team again this year.”
Sophomore Charlie Fox and senior Jake Ryan also are projected to start.
Fox is a 5-foot-9 guard while Ryan is a 6-foot-2 forward. Ryan scored three points with 3.2 rebounds per game off the bench last season.
“Charlie spends a lot of time working on his game. He runs the floor well and has a very good outside shot. He has deep range and can knock down 3s at a high level. He will help us to space the floor for our offense. We are looking forward to seeing Charlie have the opportunity to play significant minutes for us this year,” Grendel said. “Jake has tremendous athletic ability. His athleticism will help him be a solid defender and rebounder. In regards to offense, Jake has the potential to give us second-chance opportunities through him getting offensive rebounds for us. Jake also has worked on his jump shot and has the ability to knock down mid-range jump shots.”
Providing depth for the Beavers are seniors Robert James, Jake Segulin and Colin Lamos, juniors Wyatt Young, and Scott Cavell, sophomores Erren Conwell and Ryan Ioppolo, and freshmen Andrew Taggart and Ian Ioppolo.
James is a 5-foot-6 guard, Segulin is a 6-foot-3 forward and Lamos is a guard.
“Robert worked really hard this offseason and the results are evident. Robert gets to the basket well and does a nice job of setting up his teammates. He brings a lot of energy every time he is on the court,” Grendel said. “Jake is also an extremely hard worker. He has a good outside shot and can spread the floor for us offensively. Jake’s length helps him to shoot over defenders. We look forward to seeing his hard work pay off this year.”
Young is a 6-foot-5 forward. Cavell and Ryan Ioppolo play guard and forward, respectively.
“Wyatt has spent a lot of time working on his game,” Grendel said. “He has improved a lot over the course of his high school career. Wyatt has a solid jump shot with good range. He also can score well near the basket. On defense, his length can help to alter the shots of our opponents.”
Conwell is a 5-foot-9 guard.
“Erren does a nice job of getting to the basket,” Grendel said. “He is very unselfish and sets his teammates up well. He has shown a lot of growth since his freshman year.”
Taggart, a 5-foot-9 guard, and Ian Ioppolo, a 6-foot-3 forward, have high ceilings and look to make an immediate impact at Riverside.
“Andrew is a gym rat. He spends so much time working on improving his game. He is very skilled as an offensive player. He can shoot well from the outside and can score well around the basket. We expect him to be a contributor for us this season,” Grendel said. “Ian has great range and can shoot the ball very well from the outside. He helps our team spread the floor offensively.”
Riverside hopes to compete in the rugged Western Reserve Conference this winter. To do that, the Beavers will have to continue to work hard and improve while also focusing on minimizing turnovers and making the most of each offensive possession.
But, first, the Beavers have to get back on the court.
“We had a great start to the season with our practices but are currently shut down until, hopefully, next week,” Grendel said. “We will have to overcome this by staying together as a team and making the most out of each opportunity that we have. Whenever we are able to get in the gym as a team, it is a great day.”