ROCHELLE — Despite COVID-19 presenting several challenges during the 2020-21 Rochelle Hub varsity basketball season, head coach Tim Thompson saw plenty of positives as the team prepares to rebuild and improve for what will hopefully be a full 2021-22 winter season.
Rochelle finished 7-7 during the 14-game shortened season, placing fourth in the Interstate 8 Conference behind All-Conference First Team honoree Garrett Burdin, who averaged over 19 points and seven rebounds per game for the Hubs. While Rochelle led the conference in total points, the Hubs ranked second-to-last in points against, a sign that the team’s defense must improve if Rochelle’s returning varsity players seek to compete for a conference title.
“I thought our kids did as well as they could,” Thompson said. “From a coaching standpoint, I thought it was difficult in terms of the number of games and the amount of practice time for us to really get things fixed. I thought we really shot the ball well and we showed as a group that we can make a lot of shots… I was discouraged that we couldn’t get our defense to where we needed it to be in order for us to be competitive in the conference. We really struggled with stopping dribble penetration and being in the proper position to help on the weak side.”
Burdin will be one of three senior guards (Spencer Warborg and Michael Schlenbecker) departing from the varsity team this year. Rochelle will have a strong core of juniors returning next season including forward Zach Sanford, who was named an All-Conference Honorable Mention this season. Sanford is one of four junior starters eligible to return next year, joining guards Adam Kemp, Ryan Simmons and Tanner Lager. Juniors Noah Brown and Forrest Gerber will provide a lift with their 3-point shooting, while sophomore forward Raul Aguirre and guard Daniel Monfils could see an increased role on the varsity team during the 2021-22 season.
“We’re really encouraged with the group we’ll have coming back next year,” Thompson said. “I think we’ll have a lot of depth, which will bring more competition into our practices. Even though a lot of juniors got a lot of varsity minutes, I was really encouraged with what our sophomores did and I think we’ll have a lot of depth and competition for playing time. It’s always a battle to figure out how we can blend our kids in, but competition breeds success.”