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UL must replace five starters from OVAC title team

MORRISTOWN — When Union Local head coach Zach Delman says he and his team are taking it one game at a time, it’s not just coach speak.

The Jets are truly simplifying matters since they’re trotting an entirely new starting lineup following last season’s 18-5, OVAC Championship season.

“We’ve challenged our guys to not let a drop off happen (in the program),” Delman said. “These guys want to continue to build on what the guys who’ve come before them have done.”

The Jets will be doing that with only two players — juniors Beezer Porter and D.J. Butts — who have earned a letter in boys basketball.

“We have a little bit of experience,” Delman said. “We were obviously a senior-laden bunch last year, but we feel good about some of these kids. They’ve just not had the opportunity. We feel like some of these guys, in different circumstances, would have been able to contribute.”

The Jets graduation losses included: Zach Bateman, Andrew Martin, Nathan Meyer, Liam Vinskovich and Luke Merritt.

Along with its on-court success, that group dealt with the unenviable COVID-19 season quite well. Union Local went through a pair of two-week pauses last season, which led to a closing stretch in which they played 12 games in a three-week span.

“Everything these kids accomplished and what they had to endure to do it is a testament to the kids,” Delman said. “Whether it was on the floor, or on paper, these guys wanted to win the OVAC title and I was happy they were able to achieve that.”

As he prepares for the upcoming season, Delman and his coaching staff have done what they can to simplify matters as much as possible.

“We’re taking it day-by-day and trying to build a solid base for our offense and defense and then go from there,” Delman said. “We’ve seen some good things in our practices and scrimmages, but we don’t want to give the kids too much too soon.”

Because of that, the Jets may be a work-in-progress for the first portion of the season as Delman and company attempt to fully realize where they can hang their hats.

“We’re still trying to figure out what kind of team we’ll be,” Delman said. “If it’s totally up to me, I like to play fast, but I’ve always adapted to what I have.”

Porter is where it starts for the Jets. The 5-11 junior started the first two games last season before opting out because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He is the first “true point guard” Delman has had in a few years.

“We’re expecting Beezer to run the show,” Delman said.

Butts (6-4) is an athletic swing player who Delman expects to take a big step forward. He’ll be joined on the interior by athletic wing Carter Blake. The 6-3 junior saw quality minutes at the jayvee level last winter.

“D.J. and Carter are nice, athletic guys who can get up and down,” Delman said. “Both jump and rebound well and they’ll mix it up.”

Senior Elijah Butterworth (6-0) is an adept 3-point shooter, who could be the beneficiary of Porter’s floor vision and passing ability.

Junior Jared Miller (6-5), who has been slowed by an ankle injury in the preseason, will get the call at the center spot.

Junior Hayden McCrate (6-0) and sophomore Gannon Kerns (5-9) will be two of the top options off the bench.

The balance of the varsity roster includes: senior Eli Davis (5-10), senior Gavin Loy (5-9) and senior Matt Grob (5-10).

“We feel like we have the potential to be pretty good,” Delman said. “We’re looking for leaders. Who’s going to be leaders on and off the floor? Someone is going to have to take charge and lead this team.”

The Jets will still shoot the ball from the outside, but they may not be as reliant on the trey as some of Delman’s past teams.

“We’re not as good of a (perimeter) shooting team as we’ve been in the past,” Delman said. “We have guys who can shoot, but I’m not sure we’re a team that’s going to make 10 plus 3s a game.”

Ticketed primarily for jayvee duty are sophomores Caleb Pierce (5-7), Arnau Puig (5-7), freshmen Logan Hess (5-10), Brandon Mehl (5-7), Isaiah Tomolonis (6-1), Nick Grob (6-0), Peyton Causby (6-1), Billy Schumacher (5-10) and Dre Saunders (5-9).

The Jets’ schedule is basically the same. They added Cambridge for a pair since it joined the Buckeye 8 South and will only play Harrison Central once.

“We have a lot of single games, but it’s a fair schedule,” Delman said. “We have some games on there that will challenge us both mentally and physically.”

Delman’s coaching staff includes: Vaughn Butler, Jim Hess, Doug Butts and Dustin Roe.

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