June 29, 2016

Intermittent clouds

Bucks feel they’re improved, ready to rise

YORK TWP. — There’s only one way for the Buckeye boys basketball team to go, and that’s up. How far up is the question.

Last in the Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division a year ago, the Bucks (4-17, 4-9) return four letterwin­ners and could surprise a lot of people in 2010-11.

Junior Ben Checkelsky will be Buckeye’s top threat from the outside this season. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY RON SCHWANE)

Junior Ben Checkelsky will be Buckeye’s top threat from the outside this season. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY RON SCHWANE)

“There is no reason to think we can’t win the conference,” third-year coach Matt Saunders said. “Obviously, we were last place last year, so you can’t put us as the favorites, but we have the pieces and the parts. As the year goes along, I think we’ll be in the conversa­tion.”

The Bucks’ biggest piece is 6-foot-3 senior cen­ter Brendan Scott, a third-year starter who earned first-team All-Gazette honors after aver­aging 13.2 points and 8.1 rebounds a year ago.

A .552 shooter from the field and .804 marksman at the line, Scott also now has the ability to step away from the basket and hit jumpers or put the ball on the floor.

“Brendan uses his body well,” Saunders said. “He plays a lot bigger than he is. He’ll be invalu­able to the success we have this year.”

Ben Checkelsky, who aver­aged 9.7 points and made 20 3-pointers last season, should provide the perfect comple­ment. The 6-1 junior, a solid var­sity contributor since his fresh­man season, has added some size and strength and is no longer just a catch-and-shoot player.

“He’s really focused on being more aggressive off the dribble and not always shooting from the perimeter,” Saunders said.

Two other letterwinners, 6-1 senior forward Nick Wilson and 5-10 senior guard Rob Hagmeier, will join Scott and Checkelsky in the starting lineup.

The fifth spot is up for grabs, with juniors Bill Doerge (5-10, G) and Tyler Nichols (6-4, C) and seniors Ryan Ackim (6-0, G), Matt Millward (5-11, G) and Carlton Watkins (5-10, G) all in the mix.

“We’re going to play up and down this year,” Saunders said. “We’ve got a much better scoring team than we’ve had the last few years. We have a lot of guys who can put the ball in the basket.”

The Bucks will also rely solely on upperclassmen for the first time in Saunders’ three seasons as coach.

“We have older guys who are experienced and have a great attitude,” he said. “These guys have been playing together since youth league, so things have been good so far.

“One of the biggest things for us is defense.We need to be solid on that end of the floor. I know we can score, but can we stop people when we need to?”

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com.


Coach: Matt Saunders, 3rd year.

Career record: 13-29.

Last year’s record: 4-17 overall, 4-9 in Patriot Athletic Conference (last in Stars Division).

Assistant coaches: Rick Schuler, Nick Senghas.

Education: Rocky River High (’02), Cleveland State (’07).

Top players

Brendan Scott: Third-year starter is a solid low-post player and good rebounder who has added the ability to score from the perimeter and off the dribble. Senior was a first-team All-Gazette pick a year ago.

Ben Checkelsky: A varsity contributor since his freshman year, the junior is no longer just a 3-point specialist. Added weight and strength should help him score in a variety of ways this season.

Ryan Ackim: Senior led the junior varsity team in scoring last year and will be counted on to complement Checkelsky from the perimeter.

Rick Noland About Rick Noland

Rick Noland is the Cavs beat writer for The Gazette and the author of "Over Time," a compilation of stories he's written in more than 30 years as a journalist. He can be reached at 330-721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.