BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – The Holy Trinity Catholic boys basketball team will have three aces on the table from the 2018-19 squad, but the wild cards could be a couple of twin tennis players.
Jason and Vasin Thurman are twin brothers who had very limited time on the floor in varsity action last year, but at 6’4″ and 6’2″ the two could have an immediate impact being on the floor at the same time.
The two were doubles partners last year as part of the Fort Madison High School shared tennis program. They also work the infield on the FMHS baseball team with Jason at short and Vasin at 1st base.
But where they haven’t had a chance to play and get together is on the hardcourts of Shottenkirk gymnasium.
“These guys are tennis players and baseball players,” said Head Coach John Hellige on Wednesday.
“They haven’t had hardly any time on varsity playing together, but we played West Liberty the other night and they did very well together. You can’t teach two kids to be twins.”
Jason played in 14 games as a sophomore last year and Vasin played in just six, and neither averaged more than two points per contest.
But nestled among springy senior Quentin Schneider, durable Matt Hellige in the post, and spot-up shooter Blake Crabtree, Hellige could have something in the mix with a team of 6’2″ inch kids that could make a run at the conference this year.
Hellige will also use junior Kaden Medland and Chandler Run to mix in some depth at the No. 1 and 2 guard spots to try and improve on the Crusaders’ 5-15 record last year.
But he said the whole team has shown prowess with the ball this year and it could be a mixed bag handling the ball.
“It’s going to be a point guard by committee with Quentin, Chandler Rung, and Jason Thurman. All our players are pretty good ball handlers so we’re not too concerned with that,” John Hellige said.
Last year’s 3-point specialist Reed Fehseke transferred to Fort Madison and is sitting out the basketball season. Fehseke shot 35% from long-range last year converting 43 of 128 and averaged just under 10 points per outing.
Matt Hellige led the team in scoring at 11.6 points per outing underneath the basket and at the free throw line last year. He said he thinks the chemistry is there to surprise some teams this year.
“Everyone’s been working really hard in practice and that’s gonna turn over into the game. Everyone is really disciplined and listens and we hardly ever goof around, but we have fun and enjoy playing,” the senior said.
“I think we’re all gonna surprise some people this year, and I think we could be really good this year.”
Schneider plays bigger than his 6’2″ frame and led the team in rebounds last year with 152. He was fourth in the Southeast Iowa Superconference south at 7.6 per game.
But Schneider’s physical play under the basket at both ends of the court landed him in foul trouble often.
“Trying to stay out of foul trouble is a big one for me,” Schneider said. “I think it’s going to be a good team and we’ll have a lot of fun this year and hopefully get more wins than we had last year – that’s the goal.”
Crabtree, who rotated through the Nos. 2-4 spots last year was a decent spot up shooter hitting 31% of his 3-pointers, but averaged over four points per game and about three boards. He was third on the squad in assists behind Fehseke and Rauenbuehler, both gone from the squad this year.
Rauenbuehler, Brant Holtkamp, and Kyle Bredemeyer all graduated last year.
Crabtree said everyone’s ready to play wherever Coach Hellige needs them to go.
“It’s going to be a little bit of everyone. Whoever is handling the ball getting up the floor, is who will be used. But we all can handle the ball and we’ll just play wherever we’re needed.”
Coach Hellige said he’s excited about the additional height on this year’s blue and silver.
“We’ve got pretty much our whole lineup up at 6 foot or taller. Colby Bredemeyer is at 5’11” but everyone else is up there so we’ve got a little bit of height this year,” he said.
“We’ve got a real athletic team and we are a bit taller. We’re bringing in juniors Vasin at 6’4″ and Jason at 6’2″ and Rung is 6’1″ and Kaden Medland is 5’11, but he’s a really good shooter.”
Hellige said that no one on the team would say basketball is their number one sport, but he said he hopes that from November to March it becomes their number one sport.
“With a lot of our teams at this school, we encourage our players to play all sports,” he said.
“For everyone on this team that’s probably the case, so we might start off a little sloppy, but by the time we get to February we should be a pretty good team.”
Hellige said the fresh faces on the squad are juniors who got time sparingly last year, but he said he has some expectations of them.
“That junior class is really talented. They had some seniors in front of them last year so their court time was limited. But they’ve really matured over the last year and their basketball IQ is very high,” he said.
“We expect them to do some good things for us.”
Hellige said WACO and West Burlington should be at the top of the conference, but said a lot of teams can reload this year. He said New London could reload, Notre Dame has a great senior class, and Danville always plays tough defense.
“It’s gonna be a crazy year, you wouldn’t think Southeast Iowa would be that strong in basketball, but these teams find ways to reload.”
The Crusaders kick off the season Tuesday at home against Danville. It’s the annual HTC boosters’ cake auction night with cakes being auctioned off at halftime of the varsity games and between the games. The junior varsity boys kick things off at 4:30 p.m.