Junior forward Jenner Hickel knows he will be counted on to help lead Washburn Rural this season especially in the first month.
The Junior Blues, who went 7-15 last season, will be without three projected starters when it begins the season on Friday (7:30 p.m.) as they host Olathe Northwest, which finished 12-10 a year ago.
“We’re all really excited to start the season even though we have three starters out,” Hickel said. “I think we’ll still have a pretty solid team.”
Junior point guard Brayden White (wrist) and senior guards Zach Lutz (ineligible) and Ziyad Kassim (foot) are expected to be out until January missing at least five games in December.
“With them back it should be real fun,” Hickel said.
With those three out, the 6-foot-5 Hickel, the second-ranked 2017 prospect in Topeka who averaged 5.6 points in 14 games last season, is ready to lead.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” he said. “I think (I will have to lead) at least for the first couple of games because we don’t really have anyone else with experience so they will be looking for me to take a lot shots I think. Then I think it will just be like normal after that.”
Hickel missed the first half of last season due to an injury, but showed flashes in his return including tying a season-high with 16 points in the season finale against Derby in the 6A sub-state final.
“I think I will be more comfortable this year because I have a bigger role this year,” Hickel said. “I’ve improved my ballhandling and explosiveness for sure.”
Senior forward Josh Brady, junior guard Jordan Cummings, and freshman guard Jordan White are three players who are expected to help fill the void with White, Lutz, and Kassim out.
Brady, who stands 6-foot-6, will be looking to provide an inside presence after playing in four games last season.
“He’s the tallest on our team and he has a big wing span,” Hickel said. “He’s more of a physical post player than what we had last year and will get rebounds and is real good on defense too.”
Jordan White, Brayden’s younger brother who is one of the top freshmen in Topeka, has impressed during preseason practices.
“He’s been doing real good in practices,” Hickel said. “He’s just a really solid player just like Brayden is. He’s going to be playing point guard for us and he handles the ball really well and makes good decisions.”
Cummings returns after playing in three games as a sophomore.
“He’s real athletic and has improved a lot from last year,” Hickel said. “He’s gotten a lot quicker and can jump a lot higher. He’ll be a good guard for us.”
Senior guard Lukas McCalla, senior forward Mitchell Schurig, and junior guard Zachary Ebert are also expected to be in the mix.