NLL boys basketball preview: Favorite Perrysburg boasts depth, experience

The Yellow Jackets (15-11 overall, 9-5 NLL) have three starters back.

By Mark Monroe / The Blade
Mon, 02 Dec 2019 18:37:02 GMT

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An experienced, deep, and balanced Perrysburg team is expected to prevail in a Northern Lakes League that features overall parity.

The Yellow Jackets (15-11 overall, 9-5 NLL) have three starters back from a team that reached the district championship game last season.

Perrysburg's good chemistry and maturity along with a deep bench and versatility make the Yellow Jackets the preseason pick to win the NLL.

Perrysburg earned seven of eight first-place votes in a coaches' poll. Anthony Wayne (15-6, 11-3) is predicted to finish second, followed by defending champion Northview (23-1, 14-0) and Springfield (11-13, 7-7). The voting was rounded out by Southview, Maumee, Napoleon, and Bowling Green.

Veteran coach Dave Boyce, who enters his 20th season with a 306-123 record at Perrysburg, said the NLL will be balanced and difficult once again.

“We hope we can use our experience to our advantage this year; handling the grind and individual ups and downs throughout the season,” Boyce said.

Perrysburg reached the Division I district final last season, beating both St. John's Jesuit and NLL champion Northview in the tournament. The Yellow Jackets then fell 58-44 to Lima Senior in the district championship game.

Only one player in the league returns that earned either All-NLL first-team or second-team honors last season. Perrysburg senior Jackson Sizemore, a 6-foot-7 forward, earned All-NLL second-team honors after scoring 20.0 points per game and pulling down 5.0 rebounds per game.

Boyce also got significant contributions from fellow seniors Drew Paule (G), Harrison Hosler (F), Zach Miller (G), and Nic Kilbride (F). Senior guard Drew Sims, a standout quarterback, returns from a knee injury that kept him out all of last season.

Seven of the eight NLL teams have claimed at least one league title in the last nine years: Northview (2019), Southview (2018), AW and Perrysburg (2017), Springfield (2014), Napoleon (2012), and Bowling Green (2011). Maumee last won a title in 1996.

Anthony Wayne, which reached the district semifinals, has scoring balance, overall depth, and good perimeter shooting with three starters back for third-year coach Josh Arthur. The Generals will be led by senior guards Zach Szul, Kyle Ray, and Bobby Miller.

Northview lost four of five starters to graduation but the Wildcats should be strong both on the inside and on the perimeter for coach Jeremy McDonald. Senior guard Grant Hartnett and sophomore forward Sean Craig were key players that are back from last season's one-loss team.

Springfield reached the district semifinals last year under coach Kyle Linehan, who has three starters back. Senior Deon Key (F), junior Bo Bucher (G), senior Denzel Stuart (G), senior Jasiri Williams (F), and senior Tyler Cunningham (G) provide overall size, good rebounding, and post defense.

Southview (9-12, 7-7) also is expected to challenge for the title under coach Mike Bretelson, who has only one starter back but has plenty of depth and size.

“I think the league will be very competitive,” Boyce said. “Every away game, every game in the second round is tough. You have to be ready to play every night. It definitely prepares us well for the tournament. A number of teams have returning players and there are some move-ins. That will make it very challenging every night.”

Here's a look at the NLL in predicted order of finish based on a preseason coaches' poll:


Coach: Dave Boyce, 20th season

Last season: 15-11 overall, 9-5 NLL

Top players: Seniors Jackson Sizemore, 6-7, F; Drew Paule, 6-0, G; Harrison Hosler, 6-2, F; Zach Miller, 6-0, G; Drew Sims, 5-11, G; Nic Kilbride, 6-5, F.

Strengths: Experience, chemistry, depth, balance

Weaknesses: Size, rebounding, consistency

Outlook: Boyce, the dean of area coaches with 36 years of experience overall (514-288 career record at Northwood and Galloway Westland), has a 306-123 mark at Perrysburg. Boyce has plenty of experience back led by Sizemore, who tallied 12.0 points and grabbed 5.0 rebounds per game to earn all-district honorable mention and all-league second-team honors. Paule also returns after averaging 7.0 points and 3.0 assists per game. Hosler (5.0 ppg. and 4.0 rpg.), Kilbride (4.0 ppg., 1.5 rpg.) and Miller (4.0 ppg. and 3.0 apg.) also return. Sims, an exceptional quarterback and the football program's all-time leading passer, returns after recovering from a season-ending torn ACL last season. Boyce said he also expects to get quality contributions from senior Emilio Navarro (G) and juniors Andy Boros (F), Aidan Gerrard (F), and Ro Sanchez (G). “We have a lot of experience back from a team that reached the district finals last year,” Boyce said. “We need a consistent effort and approach to each game. That will be the key to the season.”


Coach: Josh Arthur, third season

Last season: 15-6, 11-3

Top players: Seniors Zach Szul, 6-4, PG; Kyle Ray, 6-0, G; Bobby Miller, 6-3, G; Ben Wyrick, 6-2, G; Bryce Boyer, 6-4, F/P; Nick Huffman, 6-3, F. Junior Dom Debo 6-1, G.

Strengths: Scoring balance, depth, perimeter shooting

Weaknesses: Creating pressure, post offense, experience

Outlook: Arthur, who is 30-13 in two years at AW, has three starters back among eight returning letterwinners. Szul (8.3 ppg., 3.0 apg.), Ray (6.0 ppg., 2.0 apg.), Miller (6.2 ppg. 2.4 rpg.), Boyer, (3.2 ppg., 2.2 rpg.), and Debo (2.1 ppg.) all logged minutes on the varsity last season along with Wyrick and Huffman. Arthur said his team should be able to handle pressure. He said he hopes to build depth and confidence early in the season in preparation for a very difficult schedule. “We could potentially be a very strong offensive team because of our ability to shoot the ball and get to the basket with multiple players on our roster,” Arthur said. “Defensively we need to improve: our communication, guarding the ball, and rebounding. As always strong team chemistry and leadership will be the determining factors to our success.”


Coach: Jeremy McDonald, fifth season

Last season: 23-1, 14-0

Top players: Senior Grant Hartnett, 5-11, G. Juniors Justin Noe, 6-4, C; Brendon Sharp, 5-8, G. Sophomores Sean Craig, 6-6, F; Grant Kopan, 6-1, G.

Strengths: Perimeter shooting, post defense, ball-handling

Weaknesses: Experience, size, depth

Outlook: The Wildcats look to defend their title with just one returning starter, but four letterwinners are back for McDonald, who has a 76-21 record at the helm. Craig is back after averaging 5.7 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. Hartnett (3.9 points per game) also chipped in with valuable minutes. Although inexperienced, the Wildcats should be versatile. “If we can overcome our lack of varsity experience, I think we can be a team that surprises people,” McDonald said. “The kids have worked extremely hard this offseason and our growth has been tremendous. Our team does a lot of things well, we just have to be able to perform well under pressure. If we can do that, I think we will be extremely competitive.”


Coach: Kyle Linehan, fifth season

Last season: 11-13, 7-7

Top players: Seniors Deon Key 6-6, F; Denzel Stuart, 6-1, G; Jasiri Williams, 6-2, F; Tyler Cunningham, 5-9, G; Elijah Kimmons, 6-5, F. Junior Bo Bucher, 5-10, G.

Strengths: Size, rebounding, post defense

Weaknesses: Perimeter shooting, ballhandling, handling pressure

Outlook: The Blue Devils are big with good depth. Three starters are back among five letter winners. Key (4.6 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 1.5 bpg.), Bucher (3.7 ppg.), Stuart (6.7 ppg., 3.1 rpg.), Williams (2.3 ppg.), and Cunningham (4.8 ppg.) all contributed, while Kimmons is a transfer from St. John's Jesuit. “Our overall size should create matchup problems on both ends of the floor,” Linehan said. “Our shooting has been an issue, but we’ve shown an ability to attack the offensive glass and create second-chance points. We will continue to try and push the pace offensively and defensively to make teams uncomfortable.”


Coach: Mike Bretelson, second season

Last season: 9-12 overall, 7-7 NLL

Top players: Seniors Thomas Huffman, 6-4, C. Juniors Grant Pahl, 6-2, G; Tommy Mackinnon, 6-0, G; Eric Hollar, 5-10, G; A.J. Jump, 6-4, F; Sean Millington, 6-1, G.

Strengths: Depth, perimeter shooting, size

Weaknesses: Experience, handling pressure, post offense

Outlook: Bretelson has just one returning starter (Pahl) with four letter winners back. He said the Cougars' potential will depend on their ability to play solid team defense and hold their opponents to as few points as possible. Pahl scored 10.0 points per game, shooting 43 percent from 3-point range, to go along with 3.5 rebound and 1.5 assists. Eric Hollar (4.0 ppg. and 2.0 rpg.) also returns. Jump, a transfer from St. John's, averaged 3.5 points and 4.7 rebounds for the Titans last season. Huffman also saw varsity minutes last season. “We are a very young and inexperienced team, but will have some viable options on our bench to provide much needed depth this season,” Bretelson said. “The sky is the limit in terms of potential for this team and we are hoping to progress with every practice and game in hopes that we are playing our best basketball come March.”


Coach: Ryan Osier, third season

Last season: 5-17, 1-13

Top players: Seniors David Walker, 6-1, PG; Garret White, 6-10, C; Zach Freeman, 6-1; F. Juniors Reed Geiger, 6-1, PG; Michael Pacer, 6-2, F; Tae Hernandez, 5-11, G; Dylan Hamilton,6-4, F; Noah Fowls, 6-2, F.

Outlook: The Panthers will be led by Walker, a three-year starter who has 452 points in his career. Walker, who averaged 12.9 points per game last year, returns along with White. Also a three-year starter, White averaged 6.2 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game. The rest are first-year varsity players for Osier, who said his kids work hard and have a lot of chemistry. “They love being around each other,” Osier said. “We’ll see how the season pans out but having David and Garret should help in critical situations this year. After those two we have student-athletes that have not been at the varsity level. The program as a whole is getting better and more skilled from freshmen on up.”


Coach: Chad Bostelman, first season

Last season: 8-16, 3-11

Top players: Senior Landon Willeman, 6-1, G. Juniors Jarrett Gerdeman, 5-10, G; Zack Rosebrook, 6-0, G; Osaac Fraber, 6-3, F. Sophomore Josh Mack, 6-4, F.

Strengths: Scoring balance, perimeter defense, creating pressure

Weaknesses: Experience, size, handling pressure

Outlook: Bostelman, a 2000 Napoleon graduate who went on to have an outstanding career at Ohio Northern, inherits two starters among three returning letterwinners. Willeman averaged 8.8 points per game, while Gerdeman (6.1 ppg.) and Rosebrook (3.5 ppg.) also chipped in. The Wildcats should be able to shoot it from the outside but ball-handling may be an issue. “We have an inexperienced team but have a promising junior class,” Bostelman said. “How quickly they adjust to varsity speed will determine our success early.”


Coach: Marshal Headley, third season

Last season: 10-14, 4-10

Top players: Seniors Justin Kurfess, 6-1, G; Dylan Kroggel 6-3, P; Peyton Beaverson, 5-11, G. Juniors Kaleb Gerken, 6-5, F; Eli Brown, 5-9, G.

Strengths: Rebounding, size, ballhandling

Weaknesses: Creating pressure, experience, depth

Outlook: Only starters is back but the Bobcats should be strong in the paint and hard working. Kroggel averaged 3.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 1.0 steals per game. Kurfess, Beaverson, Gerken, and Brown all chipped in with 2.0 points per game. “We have a lot of new players after graduating a strong class,” Headley said of a group that included two All-NLL players (Isaac Elsasser and Bryce Horner). “We're going to have to work inside-out and create scoring opportunities that way,” Headley said. “This team will be tenacious and scrappy.”