ZIONSVILLE – The Zionsville boys basketball team advanced all the way to the regional final last season, ultimately falling to state champion Carmel.
But the Eagles lost three starters from that team, including two of the best players in in program, so this year will be a completely different look for the Eagles.
Head coach Shaun Busick is entering his 14th year in charge of the Eagles’ program, and just wants his team to focus on getting better each day, so that when it gets to the sectional in March, they are playing their best basketball.
“The bottom line is that have to be the best we can be at the end of the season,” Busick said. “We have to get one percent better every day, both individually and as a team. That will come with great listening, great consistency and great execution.”
Official practice has been going on for about a week and a half.
So far, Busick has been encouraged by a lot of the things he has seen.
“I like our enthuasism and our willingness to learn,” Busick said. “We are a very pliable team right now, in that we are able to shape and form an identity. We are starting to form our identity, now we need to get some games under our belts to see what exactly that will be.”
The Eagles return two starters from last year’s team in Anthony Scales (6.2 points, 6.1 rebounds) and Ben Weidner (6.1 points).
Senior Gunnar Vannatta will also be a key player for the Eagles.
“Ben and Anthony both started a lot of games last year and played big roles,” Busick said. “I think Gunnar Vannatta is starting to step up as a leader too, which is great to see. He is going to be a key piece for us with size, and he wants to be a positive leader for us and is showing it not only on the court, but in the classroom too. Those have been our main leaders right now.”
For the past few seasons, the Eagles had Isaiah Thompson and Nathan Childress to lean on in those tough moments throughout the season.
Busick said there will be a little bit of an adjustment with this group of seniors, but thinks they are ready for the challenge.
“They are taking great responsibility and understand they may have to sacrifice a little bit,” Busick said. “Their responsibility is when things are going bad, to be positive leaders and pull us through those tough teams. They have to do that for us to be successful.”
The Eagles have won 80 games the last four years and have won back-to-back sectional titles.
Busick said that winning culture, along with the closeness of the team, are going to be what pushes the Eagles’ ahead.
“I think our culture and chemistry are going to be key,” Busick said. “I think we have a really good culture going and we have good chemistry. We are a work in progress. We probably won’t look good until mid-season. I would like to look great right away, but it is probably going to take a little bit.”
Zionsville has won four-straight HCC titles.
Only HSE from 2010-2014 has won five in a row. If the Eagles are going to match that, it isn’t going to be easy.
“There are a lot of good teams in the conference,” Busick said. “I think Avon is going to be incredible, Brownsburg will be good, HSE is going to be really good and the list goes on and on. Westfield and Fishers will be solid. We are going to have our hands full in the conference. There are no easy games ever, but especially this year.”
Another change for the Eagles will be a new sectional. After four years in Sectional 7, the Eagles are moving back to Sectional 8 this year.
Busick said that it will be a change, but the Eagles are familiar with all of the teams in the sectional, so it won’t give them any surprises.
“The sectional is going to be tough as nails,” Busick sad. “We have all those conference teams and every one says Carmel lost a lot, but when you have 5,500 students, it’s easier to replace players you lost and they are really well coached and disciplined. Moving into that sectional will be tougher, but our old sectional wasn’t easy either.”
The Eagles open up the regular season on Tuesday at home against Carmel.
“Offensive and defensive execution are going to be important,” Busick said. “We have to make sure we are as ready as possible next Tuesday.”