BY MARK SALUKE
With his rookie campaign in the books, Kyle Bedwell is ready for year two of his tenure as Eastern boys basketball coach.
“I like the direction we’re heading,” Bedwell said. “Energy is high right now. I feel like I’ve really surrounded myself with a good, supportive group. I’ve built what I feel is a confident and strong coaching staff this year.”
Bedwell knows he has big shoes to fill as the Comets prep for 2012-13 with the departure of 1,000-point scorer Josiah Price, who led Eastern with 22.4 points and 10 rebounds per game last year.
“Joe Price walked out the door and took about 80 percent of our offense with him,” Bedwell said. “He left a big hole to fill. We’ve drastically changed our offense. We’ve got to get the most out of the talent we have.”
The Comets return considerable court experience from a 5-17 squad that played for the Class 2A Sectional 39 championship last March.
“Depth-wise, we could go seven deep,” Bedwell said. “We’ve got some really strong-skilled kids starting with K.J. [Myers], who is such a good ball-handler. Braden [Gibson] is a top shooter from the outside. He really benefited last year, starting every game except for senior night as a sophomore.”
Myers, a senior who averaged 6.6 points per game and 2.5 assists last season, will run the point, while junior sharpshooter Gibson, the leading returning scorer (8.8 ppg, 45 3-pointers made), will be at the two spot.
Myers and Gibson will form the Comets’ starting backcourt. Bedwell’s other lock is senior Josiah Marx (6.2 ppg, 3.9 rpg) in the five spot.
“I think a lot of teams will key on Josiah,” Bedwell said. “He’ll be a strong post player.”
Seniors Grant Cole (4.6 ppg, 2.3 rpg) and Josh Keith, along with junior Will Porter, will go back and forth competing for the three and four spots.
Each of those players, Bedwell says, offer different strengths to the team.
“Will’s strength is his quickness and defensive intensity. He can step out and hit the 3 every once in a while and help Braden.
“Josh has a knack for body position and he’s cerebral,” Bedwell added. “He knows where guys should be every play. Grant has some height and can get up and down the court quick. If he can get ahead on a break and throw one down, that can be a big momentum changer.”
Sophomore Papee Byers will offer depth at the guard slot.
Seniors James Reed and Chris McCreary are up from the JV squad.
“Both of those guys are positive, their heads are always in the right place, and they add a lot to the team chemistry,” Bedwell said of the pair of seniors.
Bedwell noted the remaining roster spots will be up for grabs on a given night, though freshman Braden Evans and sophomore Brady Zirkle look to be the early leading contenders.
With Price gone, size will be a concern for the Comets.
“That’s going to be one of the downfalls,” Bedwell said. “We’re thin physically and not real strong. We’re a short team but we’re fairly quick. We’re going to have to get out and run.”
In 2011-12, Eastern surrendered nearly 70 points per game to opposing teams.
“Defense is always a concern,” Bedwell said. “Looking back at last year, we had so many turnovers, so decision making is going to be another big key.”
Bedwell likes the chemistry he’s seeing in practice.
“The kids seem to play well together. That’s what is exciting right now. We just want to improve every night. If we can do that, the wins will come.”