Berkshire will face many challenges during the 2020-2021 season.
The Badgers, who return three starters and a host of others with varsity experience, play in the very competitive Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division, so they know they’ll have to be prepared to play physically on any given night.
“Some challenges we expect to encounter throughout the season include teams that are extremely aggressive and physical and dealing with the unexpected throughout the course of the season,” said third-year head coach Ryan Dickard. “The top of our conference is loaded with teams that are chock full of athletes, particularly football players, who play with a nastiness that can be difficult to handle. Thankfully, we have a lot of returning players and got a good amount of experience in scrimmages going against the same types of defenses we will see from the best teams in our conference.”
Berkshire finished just 5-18 overall and 3-15 in league play last winter but the Badgers have worked hard during the offseason and enter the 2020-21 season with more experience and depth.
“We feel very confident about where we are as a team heading into the season,” Dickard said. “We have had extremely competitive scrimmages with a number of bigger schools and seen a variety of styles within those scrimmages. A number of our players have been in the gym since June working on their games and it shows.”
Seniors Jay Wolfe and J.T. Bergmeier return to the starting lineup after earning honorable mention All-CVC honors last winter.
Wolfe and Bergmeier both are 5-foot-10 guards with energy and experience.
“Jay is an excellent floor general, one of our two returning guards who we rely on to break pressure, get us set up in our offense, make the right decision and lead the team on and off the court. Jay had an excellent soccer season in which he earned first-team all-conference and a lot of what he does well on the pitch translates to the court. Jay will rarely come off the court and any success we have this season will be a large result of how he performs. He is extremely quick, a good shooter, and has an unorthodox game that yields positive results on both sides of the floor,” Dickard said. “J.T. is our other returning guard. He is a very intelligent player who has grown leaps and bounds from where he was last year. He has really rounded out his game and makes great decisions on the floor for us. He also earned first-team all-conference in soccer and we expect similar results from him in basketball. He is a great shooter who has the green light from just about anywhere in the half-court.”
Berkshire’s other returning starter is junior Isaac Potter, a 6-foot forward.
“Isaac is our hardest working player day in and day out,” Dickard said. “He is always working on his game and it shows. He can score in a variety of ways and will play a pivotal offensive role.”
Seniors Matt Heffern and Dakota O’Dell are projected to fill out the starting lineup.
Heffern is a 6-foot-1 forward while O’Dell is a 6-foot center.
“Matt has the ability to be our best player on the floor in most of the games we play. He is a microwave out there and can really put points on the board in a hurry at any moment. His confidence and physical maturity are the areas that he has made the biggest strides in since last season. He is very long and does so many positive things on each side of the floor for us,” Dickard said. “Dakota has a bright future ahead of him. He is probably our most athletic player who is coming into his own on both sides of the court. This will be his first varsity experience, but he is more than capable of holding his own. He can do a little bit of everything on the floor and as he gains more experience he will really shine.”
Seniors Chase Crea and Nathon Iadimarco, sophomores Alec Yalanty and Joey Czekaj and freshmen Mason Mendolera, Miles Miller and Jack Hastings will provide depth for the Badgers.
Crea is a 6-foot center while Iadimarco is a 5-foot-8 guard/forward.
“Chase is a good shooter and defensive presence who is capable of filling many roles for us,” Dickard said. “Nathon is hard-working and plays with tireless effort.”
Yalanty is a 5-foot-6 guard and Czekaj is a 5-foot-8 guard.
“Alec is a lightning-quick guard. He can score in a variety of ways and is unwavering in his confidence,” Dickard said. “Czekaj is a good shooter and heady player who is always in the right spots on both sides of the floor.”
Mendolera is a 5-foot-10 guard/forward, Miller is a 5-foot-7 guard and Hastings is a 5-foot-9 forward.
“Mason is good three-level scorer who can score in bunches and be a playmaker at all times. He has a bright future ahead of him and lives in the gym,” Dickard said. “Miller shows the most effort and hustle out of anyone in the program. He creates so much havoc out there with his intensity. He is a good shooter and athlete who is never afraid of the moment. Hastings is a hard-working, athletic player who is gaining more and more confidence every day. He can shoot, dribble, defend and compete at a high level.”
As always, Berkshire hopes to complete for the league title and to make a deep run in the playoffs.
To do that, the Badgers will have to rely on a tried and true method of protecting the basketball and competing at a high level.
They’ll also hang their hats on defense.
“Our team strengths are our team defense and balanced offense,” Dickard said. “Defensively, Berkshire has always hung tough on the defensive side and this year is no different. Offensively, we have five to six guys that are capable of averaging double-digit points per game and can score at all three levels as well.”