Toughness, versatility key for Potters

Joey Wagner TimesNewspapers
In this 2014 file photo, Ryan Altenberger puts up a shot in around a Metamora defender. Altenberger will be one of the main returners for this year’s Potters boys basketball team.

MORTON — Jarrett Brown heard the chatter about the Morton Potters when he took the head coaching job six years ago.

The Potters were not tough. In fact, they were soft, or so he heard. Brown reminds his players of the perception of their team everyday as they brace for the 2015-16 season.

“From day one here, things I heard about Morton when I came here was, ‘good tradition, the guys are talented, can shoot, can do this or that, but they’re soft. They’re just not tough,’” Brown said. “We want that to be our identity that we’re going to play tough no matter the circumstances (are) from beginning to end.”

After finishing last season 13-18, but boasting a 9-5 mark in Mid-Illini Conference play, the Potters lost a bulk of their scoring when six seniors graduated in May. Brown does not expect the transition to be as tough as it would have been in years past. Contact days in the summer and offseason workouts have helped smooth the transitions for the younger squad.

“We graduated quite a bit of scoring from last year and things like that,” Brown said. “You start in the summer and try to plan who is going to fill those shoes and who is going to take on different roles. That as well has been pretty well established.”

Morton graduated Jared Liddle, the 6-foot guard who averaged 12.3 points per game. The Potters also lost Issac Stephens to graduation. Stephens averaged 8.1 points per game and 5.3 rebounds per game.

Brown is going to lean on leadership from returning varsity players Dan Bolt and Ryan Altenberger to show the younger players what it takes to prepare for a varsity season.

The senior Bolt returns after scoring 4.5 points per game and averaging 2.1 rebounds per game. Altenberger comes back after scoring 14.8 points per game and pulling down 3.2 rebounds per game.

Brown is confident with his players, despite not having “star power” similar to other teams across the state. What Brown and the Potters do have is balance and versatility, a key for achieving success throughout the season.

“We’ve never operated on a star system,” Brown said. “We’re pretty balanced. It’s one of our strengths. We have a lot of versatility, that’s another strength. We’re going to lean on that mostly.”

The key for success in most sports across the board is to put the correct pieces together in the right way. Brown believes Morton has the pieces. In practice, the Potters have players who are willing to lead vocally, they have players who are willing to lead the way with work ethic and they have players who follow the leaders. All of the components for success.

The Potters coaching staff has expected big things from the current junior class for a few years. In fact, it reminds Brown of Morton teams that have achieved success in the past.

Morton does not have a “real big guy” to put on the court on a nightly basis, according to Brown. However, he is impressed with the overall size of his team. According to Brown, Morton “looks the part.”

Chemistry, an important factor on most basketball teams, is something Brown has seen early in practice. He believes in order for Morton to meet their full potential chemistry needs to be high.

Two starters return from last year’s team, leaving Morton with relatively little game experience in comparison to other conference teams.

“We return two starters and the teams at the top of our league are returning three and four,” Brown said. “Somehow we have to bridge that gap.”

The focus on offense this season for the Potters is to collapse the defense by driving the ball to the hoop. Last year, Morton was a perimeter oriented team, which caused problems when it came to breaking down a defense.

This season, Brown wants his players to serve their teammates. He wants them to impact their teammates and effect their teammates in a positive manner.

Brown and the Potters are going to try to navigate through the difficult Mid-Illini with versatility and toughness.