Can great run of success continue for Norsemen?
Going into last season, most of the Newark High School basketball faithful thought the loss of 1,000-point scorers Jack Clausel and Evan Schomer due to graduation might keep the Norsemen from being competitive as the year wound down into the playoffs.
Nothing could've been further from the truth, as NHS posted its second-best postseason finish in school history after capturing fourth-place at the IHSA Class 1A state finals, behind only the Norsemen's state championship benchmark that was achieved in 2011. Newark completed 2016-17 with an overall record of 28-6 and a perfect 8-0 mark in the Little Ten Conference.
Now the question is: Can the Norsemen succeed again with some fine returning talent but more major pieces lost to graduation?
Gone is four-year starter and future NHS Hall of Fame point guard Will Clausel, who ended up fifth on the Norsemen's all-time scoring list with 1,630 points. Last year he averaged 15.4 points per game along with 5.1 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 2.4 steals per contest. Cam Myre (13.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg) and Steve McGrath (10.0 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.7 apg, 2.5 spg) also moved onto college, while the only two starters that return this year for veteran coach Rick Tollefson (12th year, 251-89) are senior guard Dylan Patrick and junior forward Beau Brown.
"It was a very fun year last season getting fourth place at state, winning the Seneca Thanksgiving Tournament and finishing second at the Plano Christmas Classic," Tollefson said. "This year we're losing a lot of everything with those three players that all contributed big. We lost a lot of scoring and height with Cam and Willy (Clausel), and obviously Steve did everything for us.
"We're going to have to get kids to step into those big shoes if we're going to be successful again."
First and foremost is the 6-foot, 2-inch Patrick, who will take over at point guard for Will Clausel. He averaged 11.9 points last season, 4.0 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.2 steals per contest while also shooting a stealthy 79 percent (101 of 128) from the free-throw line.
"I feel like I'm ready to step into those big footsteps, and I feel pretty good about what we accomplished last year," Patrick said. "I think we can keep pushing that level to be even better if we continue practicing hard and play mentally tough."
Brown (6-3) also was a huge contributor as a sophomore starter last year, registering 7.9 points per game and 3.1 rebounds per contest. Along with Patrick, he moves into a primary role for the Norsemen.
"Last year was pretty special with Dylan and the seniors really helping me along playing as a sophomore," Brown said. "I'm really hoping I can step up my play this year and contribute much more than I did last season. I think it can be a very good year for us."
Joining Patrick and Brown in this season's starting lineup will be last year's sixth-man, junior guard Corey Jacobson (6-0, 4.2 ppg), junior guard Connor Swanson (5-10) and junior guard Jacob Slivka (6-0).
Forward Rhys Pepino (6-0) is the only other senior on the Newark roster besides Patrick and should see the floor along with junior guard Brett Myre (6-0) and junior guard Kevin Samion (6-0). Sophomores Jacob Chapman (5-9), Alex Tollefson (5-10) and Zak Akre (6-0) might also play into the youthful mix of talent.
"Dylan definitely has been our leader since the summer," Tollefson said. "He's a terrifically strong player, heady and understands the game very well. We'll look to him for a lot of things with Beau, Corey and a deep, up-tempo group that can get after some people.
"Hopefully, we'll be pretty good again."
No. Player Ht. Yr.
0 Rhys Pepino 6-0 Sr.
1 Jacob Slivka 6-0 Jr.
2 Dylan Patrick 6-2 Sr.
4 Corey Jacobson 6-0 Jr.
5 Brett Myre 6-0 Jr.
10 Zak Akre 6-0 So.
11 Connor Swanson 5-10 Jr.
13 Jacob Chapman 5-9 So.
15 Nate Christian 5-11 So.
20 Alex Tollefson 5-10 So.
21 Garrett Dillon 5-11 Jr.
23 Kevin Samion 6-0 Jr.
25 Beau Brown 6-3 Jr.
33 Dru Brown 6-0 Jr.
11/20-25 at Seneca Turkey Tourney TBA*
12/1 at Leland-Earlville 7 p.m.
12/5 PLANO 5:30 p.m.
12/8 at Hinckley-Big Rock 6 p.m.
12/9 at Annawan 6:30 p.m.
12/15 LAMOILLE-OHIO 7:30 p.m.
12/26-30 at Plano Classic TBD
1/5 at Serena 5:30 p.m.
1/9 at Seneca 7 p.m.
1/12 KIRKLAND HIAWATHA 5:30 p.m.
1/16 INDIAN CREEK 5:30 p.m.
1/23 at Dwight 7 p.m.
1/26 at Paw Paw 7 p.m.
1/27 at Beecher Shootout TBD
1/29-2/2 at Little Ten Tourney TBD
2/6 at Marquette 7 p.m.
2/10 at Indian Creek TBA
2/13 MOOSEHEART 7 p.m.
2/16 SOMONAUK 7 p.m.
Phil Chapman is an avid basketball fan that has served as the voice of the Newark Norsemen over the last three seasons. Phil will be broadcasting the games at the Plano Christmas Classic