Franklin boys basketball coach Brad Dickey wastes no words when asked what he knows about tonight’s season-opening opponent.
“Nearly nothing,” he said.
Center Grove coach Zach Hahn finds himself in a similar situation with regard to the Grizzly Cubs.
That’s because tonight’s traditional pre-Thanksgiving showcase between Franklin and host Center Grove has a wealth of new features, including two first-year head coaches, a host of players making varsity debuts and revamped offensive and defensive philosophies.
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In the end, though, it’s still Center Grove vs. Franklin — two fierce Class 4A Johnson County rivals.
“They’ve got an outstanding program, tons of talent, and we know (6-foot-4 senior guard/forward Michael) Benkert pretty well,” said Dickey, referring to the Trojans’ leading scorer (17.5) and rebounder (5.6) from the 2013-14 season. “And we’ve reviewed old New Castle and Butler film to learn more about Zach.
“I’m sure he’s trying to instill toughness in his players because that’s the way he played.”
In reference to the 26-year-old Hahn’s playing days at Butler, Dickey is joking about the film study but entirely serious about the tenaciousness Hahn brings to competition.
Dickey expects the Trojans, who feature one of the county’s top returning players in Benkert, to embody their coach’s competitive spirit.
Benkert has been an integral varsity player since the beginning of his freshman season. Among other players back for Center Grove are senior guards Joey Lenkey, Anderson McCoy and Carson Lee.
Former Indian Creek guard Cameron Smith, a 6-2 junior guard, is expected to be Franklin’s first option offensively after averaging16.3 points a game a year ago for the Braves. Senior Branden Hardesty, a 6-5 senior, also brings an abundance of experience to the Cubs’.
“You have to have a sense of enthusiasm about what you’re doing,” Dickey said. “They’re kids and this is a game, but the biggest part of fun is winning.”
Center Grove hosting Franklin is one of four openers tonight for local boys teams.
Whiteland travels to Mount Vernon, Edinburgh hosts Southwestern (Shelby), and Greenwood Christian Academy plays at Metropolitan.
Whiteland coach Matt Wadsworth’s team looks to snap a three-game losing streak to the Marauders. The Warriors’ most recent victory in the series was a 46-43 decision late in the 2010-11 regular season.
At Edinburgh, Lancers coach Drew Glentzer aims for the program’s seventh consecutive win against Southwestern with his most vertically challenged team yet. The Lancers have only one player standing taller than 6-foot.
Edinburgh is led by junior Kyle Pendleton, a 6-foot junior guard whose left-handed jumpers were sorely missed a year ago when he missed the entire season with an ACL injury.
Junior point guard Bobby Simpson and senior Matt Heagy also return to what in effect is a five-guard lineup for Glentzer, who in four seasons at Edinburgh is 68-24 (.739).
“Playing hard is a skill just like shooting and passing the ball are skills,” Glentzer said “I’m looking for my kids to play hard and compete.”
Greenwood Christian is coming off a magical 19-6 season in which it captured the program’s first Class A sectional title. The Cougars made it all the way to the evening game at the Martinsville Regional before losing a 66-65 thriller to Clay City.
Along the way, the Cougars tripped up tonight’s foe (Metropolitan) 65-62 in a regional semifinal.
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Center Grove, which has won seven of the past 10 meetings against Franklin Community, hasn’t lost a season-opener to the Grizzly Cubs since an 82-72 decision to start the 2004-05 season:
Center Grove 56, Franklin 44
Franklin 39, Center Grove 32*
Center Grove 62, Franklin 53
Franklin 46, Center Grove 42*
Center Grove 52, Franklin 37
Center Grove 84, Franklin 43
Center Grove 67, Franklin 40+
Franklin 67, Center Grove 58*
Center Grove 63, Franklin 50
Center Grove 65, Franklin 56
*Johnson County Tournament
+Class 4A sectional