Tom Byrum is back at his alma mater in hopes of putting the Indians in a position to win championships.
“Then main thing working against us right now is time,” said the 1990 graduate of Union City Community High School. “The guys are learning a new system with a new coach, and that’s going to take some time for them to get used to things. But you don’t want to peak in November. We want to be playing our best at tournament time.”
Byrum left Randolph Southern last year after guiding the Rebels to their first sectional title in 17 years and just the third in school history. While it was a difficult decision for him to leave, he says he loves being at Union City and is starting to build real relationships with his players.
On the surface, it looks like the Indians might struggle after losing 31 points of offense from seven seniors and finishing with just five wins in 24 games a year ago. Departed sue to graduation are Wes Mote (7.1), Jacob Moore, Mason Good (7.1), Akili Roberts (8.0), Maverick Luster and Gavin Teeter.
That’s a lot of losses, for sure.
But there’s reason to believe that Byrum could mold this team into a competitive bunch, especially given time to develop some camaraderie and learning each other’s style of play.
Junior Zerrin Cantu (11.9 ppg) was the leading scorer on last year’s team and figures to once again get his share of points. Cantu made 48 three-pointers a year ago.
A pair of key seniors returning are John Carpenter (5.5 ppg) and Bryten Stewart (7.4 ppg). Junior Hunter Reagan is coming off a great football season and may be ready to step up.
Up from the junior varsity are Tanner Spence, Antoni Velasquez, Rylan Mote and Ryan Armantraut and Jacob Conner.
Two other players will add to a solid nucleus. Elijah Cowper, at 6-foot-6 junior, will give the Indians a big guy in the paint, while freshman Camden Lafuze, 6-2, has impressed Byrum in the early going.
Sophomore Rylan Mote may end up splitting time between the varsity and junior varsity.
“We lost some good guys, but I like what we have,” insists Byrum. “The guys will need some time to process everything – these guys need to learn to play in a structured environment. “But it’s important to remember that it is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.”
Byrum has been impressed with the defensive play and quick hands of the athletic sophomore Velasquez as well as Cowper, who he beliees with his size will add another dimension to the team.
Mote is likely out for awhile after suffering an injury. Lafuze also has a big upside and could provide some immedate help.
“Hopefully we can build some chemistry, because talent will only take you so far.”
Byrum expects this years team to be fast and quick. There is a bit of concern about turnovers as the team had 31 in a preseason scrimmage against Blackford.”
“Our goal is 10, which I know is a lofty goal. But I feel we can get there,” Byrum said.
The Indians had a rare opportunity in their season opener on Wednesday when they traveled to play Cambridge City Lincoln in the season opener.
Byrum will be assisted in his first year at Union City by Tyler Barbour, Briant Frantz as junior varsity coach and Brad Jessup as C-team coach.