Expectations high for Craig High boys basketball
There's a definite buzz surrounding Janesville Craig's boys basketball team this season.
The Cougars won six of their last eight games a year ago and return three starters, including one of the state's top seniors in Jerry Ngobi.
Coach Mike Miller has a roster filled with talent and versatility, a combination that has been lacking in recent years for what was once one of the area's most successful programs.
“I think we're finally going to get back to playing good old-fashioned Craig basketball,” Miller said. “That means playing up-tempo. Getting up and down the court. Defensive pressure. All those things that defined Craig basketball for so long.
“We've set the bar high this season. The kids had a great summer and have bought in completely to what we're trying to do. I think we're going to be exciting to watch.”
The all-everything Ngobi will lead what figures to be a team loaded with scorers. The 6-foot-1 guard averaged 16.2 points per game last season, including back-to-back games of 30 and 36. He failed to reach double figures in scoring in only two of 21 games.
“People are going to be surprised by Jerry,” Miller said. “I really believe he has taken his game to another level.
“He's a tireless worker that would rather do drills and work on his shooting than anything else. And he's really become a great leader.”
The other two returning starters are seniors Mike Murphy (6-2) and Nolan Maresch (6-2). Those two combined for more than 16 points per game last season and compliment Ngobi well.
“Nolan is about as a tenacious defender as I've had,” Miller said. “He makes us go with his ability to shut down the other team's top scorer.
“And Murphy is one of the better offensive players around. He runs the court very well and can shoot from anywhere.”
Rounding out the starting in lineup in tonight's season opener against Monroe will be seniors James Morgan (6-3) and Logan Carlson (6-5).
Miller has a deep bench and won't hesitate to use it. Two of the top reserves will be freshmen Jake Negus (6-0) and SanTrell Payton (5-7).
“They're both ready to play at the varsity level or they wouldn't be up with us,” Miller said. “Negus is one of the most solid all-around players I've had, and SanTrell, I thought, played fantastic at our scrimmage considering it was the first time he had played against that level of competition.”
Junior Ross Smith (6-2) will provide depth in the frontcourt, along with juniors Austin Kuhl (6-6), Kejuan Green (6-5), Alec McCann (6-1) and Parker Bouland (6-1).
Junior McCauley Cox (6-1) will be one of the top reserves in the backcourt.
“I've got 13 guys that are all capable of contributing without a ton of drop off,” Miller said. “That's a luxury I haven't had.
“Practices have been great because the kids come to compete every day. Everybody is excited to get going.”
(7:30 p.m. starting times unless indicated)
November: 21—Monroe; 26—At Janesville Parker; 29—Madison Edgewood.
December: At Madison East; 6—Madison West; 12—At Verona; 14—Sun Prairie; 17—At Mount Horeb; 20—Beloit Memorial; 28—Madison La Follette.
January: 9—Madison Memorial; 11—At Middleton; 14—Janesville Parker; 17—Madison East; 23—At Madison West; 25—Verona; 28—At Stoughton; 31—At Sun Prairie.
February: 7—At Beloit Memorial; 13—Madison La Follette; 15—At Madison Memorial; 22—Middleton.