By Will LeBlond
The 2016-17 season went according to plan for the Trumansburg boys basketball team – except for its conclusion.
This season the Blue Raiders are looking to finish the job, but the team certainly has some challenges to face. Trumansburg was the top seed in the Section IV Class C tournament last year, but a semifinal loss to Elmira-Notre Dame knocked them out.
The biggest task to overcome this year is the departure of one of the IAC’s most prolific scorers in history, Austin Grunder. He scored an astounding 646 points last winter for T’burg, which put him just short of the 2,000-career-point ledger.
Other notable scorers that graduated from last year’s team include Andrew Stewart, Luke Richards and Jack English. With Grunder no longer in the lineup, it will certainly be a different looking Blue Raiders team, but head coach Jeff Richards thinks he has the pieces left to work through it.
“We really had a focus on him for the last few years,” he said about Grunder. “We relied on him for a lot of our points, but this year it’s going to be a lot different.
“We have a bunch of guys that are skilled in various areas,” Richards added. “We have guys that can shoot from the outside and we have players that can score inside.”
The top returning scorer for the team is Dalton Kenney, and he’s looking forward to getting started with a new group in place.
“I’m pretty anxious,” he said about starting the new season. “This year I have big expectations for the team.
“We lost Grunder and we were all riding on his shoulders last year,” Kenney added, “so hopefully we can ride on each other’s shoulders this season and we can have a good year.”
After a 17-3 season last winter, this year will be all about balance when it comes to scoring the ball if the Blue Raiders want the same success. While there will be a lot of new players to work in, the same rings true for a lot of teams in the IAC.
“The great thing about the new season is that everyone is in the same spot,” said Richards. “Everyone is 0-0 and we’re looking at it like the sky is the limit.
“We’re not going to hold ourselves up to any kind of standard,” he added, “so we’re just going to see what happens as we progress.”
With so many new pieces set to join the Blue Raider lineup, it will be a process to get them all ready to step in and play in the IAC. The preseason has served as the time to prepare them for varsity action, while also serving as a good time to get the team unit together for another long winter.
“I think the important thing is to have a lot of team bonding,” said Kenney. “We need to spend a lot of time together off the court because team morale and cohesiveness really plays a big role in our success and hopefully we can come together as a good group.”
A trio of preseason scrimmages against Odessa-Montour, South Seneca and Newfield served as more time to build the team unit, but their first regular season game on Friday, December 1, will be a good test when the Thomas A. Edison Spartans will come to town.
By the end of the season, the Blue Raiders want to be in the mix for a sectional title once again and Richards can envision what he wants his team to look like come February.
“I would like for them to have confidence in each other,” said Richards. “I want them to feel like they don’t have to do anything spectacular on their own and that they can rely on their teammates.”
After the team’s season opener, the Blue Raiders will be home again on December 12, 15 and 19 before the holiday break.