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NW boys to rely on returning players

Last season, Northwestern (6-12 Colonial, 8-14 overall) seniors Rob Seyfried and Trevor Cunningham combined to average just over 22 points per game for the Tigers.

Both are gone, leaving just one of the top three scorers from last year’s team to return in current junior Sam Yadush, who averaged 13 points per game.

That doesn’t leave coach Billy Hallman with a lot of built-in options for offense this season, so he’s taking the obvious route and planning on getting the ball to Yadush a lot. They’ll also look to see continued development from a pair of sophomores who helped last season and got a lot of time on the court.

“We’re going to rely heavily on Sam Yadush, the ball’s going to be in his hands a lot. We’re asking him to do a lot, he’s going to be our main ballhandler, and he’s also going to be our main scorer,” said Hallman. “We’re also hoping that Deven Bollinger and Luke Hallman take the next step. They started every game for us last year — Deven missed one game for injury — but other than that, they got lots of playing time.”

Junior Devin Thomas worked hard during the offseason and will look to combine the playing time that he got during the season with the work that he put in over the summer to move into a bigger role with the team. Thomas and Luke Hallman were out of position for much of last season, awaiting their turn to move to the inside. The move isn’t something that coach Hallman regrets because he believes it’s going to pay dividends now, and Thomas and Hallman will get their chance to take advantage of their size playing inside more.

“We did that hoping to expand their game, because it’s just not a position that they had played before. It’s going to make those two better because they’re a lot more comfortable when they slide to the outside now. They’re just going to be harder to guard and they’re going to play with more confidence,” Hallman explained.

With scoring in doubt, the Tigers will look to be tougher defensively this season, which worked well for them in games over the summer. The players have realized that defense will help to cover up some offensive issues if they put in a consistent effort on the court.

Hallman is also going to use his team’s size and athleticism to their advantage. His players have worked out a few kinks and are playing well together in practice as the season approaches. They also have multiple players — like Thomas and Hallman — who can play effectively at multiple positions, giving them flexibility.

It’s been 10 years since Northwestern had a winning season, but Hallman is liking what he sees out of this group through the early going.

“We had a really good offseason,” he said. “This group really likes to play together and they share the ball. There are times where we have to tell them to be a little more selfish because they make one extra pass that they don’t need to make. We’ve been upbeat and haven’t had to beat up on anybody, because they’re ready to go, so it’s exciting.”

Members of the Northwestern boys basketball team for the 2017-18 season include, front row from left, Derek Hebelka, Samuel Seyfried, Samuel Yadush, Michael Rebert, Zachary Rosamalia, manager Jacob Dolansky; middle row, Richard Rudoph, Joseph Pleban, Nicholas Henry, Andres Garrido, Brandon Mengel, Vincent Castrine; back row, coach Patrick Wannamaker, head coach Billy Hallman, Sean McCann, Derek Holmes, Devin Thomas, Deven Bollinger, Luke Hallman, Conner Snyder, Rafe Perich, and coach Mark Henry. NANCY SCHOLZ/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS