OHIO CITY, Oh - The Saint Ignatius Wildcats Basketball team is coming into this new season riding high after their final four appearance and trip down south to Dayton. With last year's senior standouts Henry Raynor and Will Yontek graduating, Head Basketball Coach Cam Joyce will come into the season looking for contributions from new faces. In his third season at the helm, Coach Joyce produces a District Semifinal appearance and a Regional Championship in his short tenure with an overall record of 34-16
The Wildcats this year come back with an intact backcourt from their Final Four run with Senior John Effertz leading the charge. The sharpshooting Effertz has impacted the team since working his way onto the Varsity roster his Sophmore Year. While Effertz is an experienced veteran, his running mate Calvin (CJ) Little is only a Sophomore. Little is explosive on the drive and presents a challenge for even the best defenders.
Behind this starting pair is another guard, Sophomore Carter Jackson. Jackson played significant minutes off the bench last year and his silky smooth mid-range jump shot and defensive range will allow him to keep those minutes. Sophomore transfer Ace Buckner is described by coach Joyce as "really talented and is going to step in and help us from day one."
Rounding out the guard group is Senior Rakyi Davis, along with Sophomores Matt Ellis and Sean Martin. In a Cleveland.com interview, Senior Forward Shondo Green Jr. says that the Cats have the best guard group in the state. This bodes well for a faster style of play, which is a change from the lower scoring Cats of previous years.
On the wing, Braydn Sczepaniak leads the way. The 6' 4" Junior is a hard worker and brings energy and defense to the starting lineup. Sczepaniak took over the starting role late last season and sought to continue that momentum. "Braydn has been on Varsity really since his freshman year," explains Joyce. "Myself and the coaches all have high expectations of him as a player and a leader."
Senior AJ Fletcher is an experienced scorer and brings leadership. His quickness off the dribble will see him often driving and kicking out to the sharpshooting guards. Seniors Timmy Ruddy and Charlie Hyland will also see time out wide and use their experience to help their up-and-coming teammates.
Two returners will dominate the frontcourt for the Wildcats; CJ Yarian, at 6' 10", and 6' 5" Shondo Green Jr. will look to fill the space that Raynor and Yontek dominated last year. Yarian isn't afraid to step out and let it fly from behind the arc, which is always a defensive nightmare when a guy his size can shoot from distance. Senior Shondo Green Jr. doesn't have the height of Yarian, but with his 225-pound frame, he can move the opposition. Green also can step out behind the arc and take it to the hoop. When they need a breather, coach Joyce can turn to 6'6" Junior Owen Maruca, 6' 6 Junior Tristan Marshall, or 6' 6 Sophomore Sam Springer. All three provide size inside and playmaking ability.
"Myself and all of the coaches believe that [depth] will be one of our strengths and that we can just wear teams down with our depth," Joyce explains. "This is our most talented roster from top to bottom since I have been here." It sure will be an exciting season in the heart of Ohio City. Wildcat nation sure has a lot to look forward to and is hoping to recreate some of last year's magic.
The Basketball Cats will tip-off the 2021-22 season on Saturday, November 27, in the Beach Valley Classic at Mason High School, where they will open against Cathedral (IN) at 5:45 p.m. Due to streaming regulations from Mason, the SIBN will not have coverage for the season opener. The stream can be purchased and viewed on Chatter Box Sports. The SIBN's first game will come from Gilmour Academy for a triple header in basketball coverage with Freshman Gold, JV and Varsity action.