Stevenson boys basketball preview

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Coach Pat Ambrose

Last season was the second time Ambrose has guided a team to the Final Four. That run to the title game has expectations higher than ever. Stevenson must replace two starters in Andy Stempel and Jack Duffy, but much of the roster returns in 2013-14. Expect the Patriots to play a similar style this season.

“We have a lot of ball handlers, a lot of versatility. We will push the ball to score more and more,” Ambrose said. “Kids are playing that style in AAU. We have some wrinkles and specific action movements that we do to put them in advantageous situations. But we will push and look for an easy score.”

Guard Jalen Brunson

Brunson is not just the NSC’s best guard, he is one of the state’s best players. A multi-dimensional 6-foot-2 guard who led the team in scoring (21.6 ppg), assists (3.8 apg) and steals (2.3 spg) as a sophomore, Brunson is also a team leader in a more benign statistic: hard work.

“He’s older, stronger, wider, better. And he was pretty special last year,” Ambrose said. “He’s more aware of his strengths and weaknesses and how to improve little things. It’s amazing to see him grind daily. That’s what makes him great.”

Expect Brunson to be the focal point of every opponent’s defensive strategy, meaning he will be double-teamed and face-guarded more often this season.

Guard Connor Cashaw

Cashaw, a 6-4 shooting guard, broke the school record for 3-point shooting last season, firing at a 48-percent clip. What Ambrose likes about Cashaw’s shooting is that he rarely goes into slumps.

“He’s very reflective in his shooting. He doesn’t fire at will,” Ambrose said. “He didn’t go in a funk, he’s very steady.”

After a summer on the AAU circuit, Cashaw has developed more of an off-the-dribble game. When Brunson is on the bench for a breather, Cashaw will handle the point at times this season for the Patriots.

They will be good. They have some younger guys coming up and will be deeper than last year. It’s going to definitely be a huge task for teams in our league.

2012-13 record: 29-4 overall, 11-2 NSC Lake

2013 playoffs: Lost in Class 4A title game to Simeon

Head coach: Pat Ambrose, 15th season

Projected starting five: jr. G Jalen Brunson, jr. G Connor Cashaw, jr. G Matt Johnson, jr. F Parker Nichols, sr. F Josias Sanon

Game to watch: Stevenson at Zion-Benton, 7:00 p.m. Jan. 10. The first of two meetings between two NSC Lake contenders. Stevenson hosts the Zee-Bees on Feb. 7.

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