‘Guard’ed optimism: Salem hopes strong backcourt can lead it to KLAA promised land
Salem’s boys basketball team won’t be bending a lot of rims this winter with earth-shaking dunks, but the Rocks have the potential to shred a few nets with silky-smooth jumpers.
With its tallest player listed at 6-foot-4, Salem is going to lean on its deep and heady backcourt in its quest to capture a Kensington Lakes Activities Association title — and any other hardware that may follow.
“We may struggle to match up with some of our opponents’ big men, but the big teams we face are going to struggle to keep up with our guards,” said Ryan Nimmerguth, entering his third season as the Rocks’ head coach. “We’re fighting to win the KLAA. If we can compete in the KLAA, most likely we’ll be able to compete with most teams in the state because the KLAA is brutal.
“We’re going to have to play extremely tough, rebound and play defense. We don’t have the gifted height some teams do, but I have some kids who compete and play bigger than their height.”
Scrappy and coachable
Nimmerguth loves the intangibles his team brings to the gym on a consistent basis.
“They’re scrappy and they’re committed to being coachable and listening to what we’re saying and trying to execute that on the court,” he said. “I like our experience. A lot of our players — especially our guards — played big minutes for us as juniors last year and Ryan Peters (a junior) played a lot as a sophomore.
“I think we lost some games last year due to our youth. We made some silly mistakes down the stretch, missed some free throws that could have closed games out due to nerves. Success this year will come down to how much we learned from last year.”
The play of a trio of guards — seniors Pryor Reynolds and Jack Kroll; and junior Ryan Peters — will determine how the Rocks fare this season.
“Pryor was our starting point guard in just about every game last year as a junior,” Nimmerguth said. “He’s pretty quick off the dribble, he’s a good shooter and he has a good sense of the game. He’s like a floor general out there and does a great job of distributing the ball.
“Ryan actually made the jump from freshman ball to varsity two years ago when he broke into the starting lineup which is pretty rare. Ryan had an incredible off-season and he really worked hard. He’s making more shots and making great decisions.
“Jack is a great distributor and great defender. He’s one of those guys who’s hitting the floor after loose balls and he’s one of our better communicators. He helps us get in our offense and keeps us organized.”
Nimmerguth is counting on four more seniors — Brendan Phillips, Luke Dieffenbaugher, Luka Thetard and Henry Rummel — to fill bigger roles than they did their junior seasons.
Other key contributors for the Rocks include freshman Eric Milt, Jr.; and juniors Landon Locke, Karman Cheema, Aydin Saiyed, Tommy Veresh and Mitch Robillard.
Salem opens it 2022-23 season Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Saline, which is coached by former Rock Mike Marek.