BY JOHN BOHNENKAMP
FORT MADISON – John Hellige knows there is plenty of work ahead for the Holy Trinity boys basketball team.
The Crusaders lost four of their top seven players from last season — “Eighty-three percent of our scoring,” Hellige said — and with only six upperclassmen on the roster this season, the opening days of practice were a lot different than last season.
“Last year, we had everything installed on day one, because we had so many players back,” he said. “This year, we’re kind of of starting from square one, learning how to work hard, learning fundamentals, and trying to put in things we can use.”
Hellige does have three seniors — Tyler Snaadt, Mike DiPrima and Jack Malinski.
Snaadt, a 5-foot-10 points guard, started 15 games last season, averaging four points per game. He had 30 rebounds and 19 assists.
“He played a pretty big role last year,” Hellige said. “I’m looking forward to him stepping up, filling some gaps, being a leader.”
DiPrima, a 6-2 forward, started seven games, with 54 rebounds and 20 steals.
“He’s a big-time hustle guy,” Hellige said. “Defender, rebounder, diving on the ground. He just does everything like that.”
Malinski, who played in eight games, will see his role increase this season. The 6-2 center can provide strength inside.
“He’s a big body,” Hellige said. “We’ll expect him to step in and play some perimeter defense. He’s been a good role model for our younger group.”
Junior Nick Fullenkamp played in five games last season.
“He’s really athletic and physical,” Hellige said.
Connor Gehling and Maddox Rung both saw time as freshmen last season.
Gehling played in 21 games, starting six.
“He’s long and athletic,” Hellige said. “He’s a really good shooter, really good defender. He got some good playing time last season, and that helped.”
Rung played in nine games, but he’ll see more time this season.
“He grew a lot between last year and this year,” Hellige said. “He’s a good shooter, smart player.”
Hellige will be counting on six freshmen to provide depth.
“Really excited about this freshman class,” he said. “It’s kind of my opinion the toughest gap to close in high school sports is the gap between eighth-grade and ninth-grade basketball. It’s a lot to ask of kids as a freshman.”
Hellige’s son, Luke, and Adam Sobczak have been impressive in the preseason.
“They’ve played a lot since third grade,” Hellige said. “They’ve seen a lot of court time.”
Brayton Schneider, Koby Jones, Tate Green and Henry Graham are the other freshmen.
“Hopefully we can get all of the freshmen court time in the JV games and get them experience,” Hellige said.
Hellige said with such an inexperienced roster, the Crusaders might do different things, especially on defense.
“I’m kind of a chameleon,” he said. “We’re going to have to outscout teams, adjust to who we’re playing.”
He knows the season is a work in progress.
“We’ve got a long ways to go,” he said. “But this is a good group that works hard and is willing to learn.”