Nov. 24—NORWALK — Learn as you go.
Last season, the St. Paul boys basketball team had a first-year and a different head coach for the first time in 32 years.
And when longtime assistant Steve Minor took over for program's all-time wins leader Mike Smith, he was also tasked with replacing all five starters — including a pair of 1,000-point scorers — from a district finalist team.
The results were not surprising.
The Flyers struggled to a 6-17 record, which included a 5-9 mark and a fifth-place finish in the Firelands Conference.
St. Paul graduated a pair of All-FC second-team selections from a season ago, but more change is on the horizon.
"We still don't have a lot of varsity experience coming back, but it's more than we did last year," Minor said. "Our younger guys are adapting well, and the older guys have done a nice job of taking them with them."
Junior guards Michael Kirk (5-foot-11), Ben Burger (6-0) and Evan Wangler (5-11) are three players who had significant varsity time as sophomores in 2021-22. Senior guards Ian Deeter (6-0) and Brock Tice (6-0) will also bring back a solid amount of court time.
"It's definitely those five as far as time on the floor coming back," Minor said. "You never really know how it will play out, which is something last year showed us."
Minor noted that Deeter wasn't viewed as a major varsity contributor entering last season, while Kirk and Wangler opened the season on the junior varsity team.
"But those guys both proved their worth, got locked up on varsity and ended up starting for a good majority of the year," Minor said.
The Flyers, who will be working in Burger, Tice and junior guard Brady Daley (5-11) methodically from football injuries, started practice on Nov. 14.
Meanwhile, junior guard/post Sam Scavuzzo is looking to make an impact, as are two sophomores in guard Korey Frazee (5-11) and post Nolan McCall (6-4).
"I think Nolan left us at 6-2 and came back 6-4 and still growing," Minor said. "We weren't sure if he'd be ready, and he proved over the summer that he's ready for the next level."
The roster is rounded out by sophomore guard Jacob Bocock (6-2) and sophomore post Brock Houck (6-0), who will add depth, along with junior guard Dan Schwan (5-11) and senior post Jake Roth (5-11).
"We have 13 guys, but obviously we won't go 13 deep," Minor said. "We have five teams we are scrimmaging from Nov. 16 to Nov. 26 — and then we're looking to have things figured out and shored up by then."
Minor said Crestview is likely the preseason favorite in the FC. However, he noted Monroeville brings back Jimmy Clingman and Aidan Goodwin, while South Central has Isaac Blair and Brandon Mitchell.
"Those are two pretty good starting points for both teams," he said. "And I know Western in everybody's opinion is supposed to be down, but I don't care if Chris Sheldon has three able bodies and two folding chairs — you have to be prepared for his teams.
"From there on, we hope to at least be in the middle of the mix. But no team stays the same, so we'll see where we fall."
Last season, the Flyers allowed 65-plus points eight times in 23 games. That was a problem when they averaged about 45 points per game.
"We have to come together understanding that it's all of us," Minor said. "It's about not caring who takes the credit. We have to defend. I think offensively we have a chance to be pretty good.
"But if we don't defend, it doesn't matter what our offense does," he added. "Then, of course, rebounding and free throws. But really, we have to get a lot better at defending than what we have been." — No. Name Pos. Ht. Yr.
0 Michael Kirk G 5-11 11
3 Ben Burger G 6-0 11
4 Dan Schwan G-C 5-11 11
5 Ian Deeter G 6-0 12
10 Jacob Bocock G 6-2 10
11 Korey Frazee G 5-11 10
15 Brock Houck P 6-0 10
20 Brock Tice G 6-0 12
21 Nolan McCall C 6-4 10
23 Brady Daley G 5-11 11
24 Sam Scavuzzo G-C 6-1 11
32 Evan Wangler G 5-11 11
40 Jake Roth C 5-11 12