Coach Matt Colston came to a Shelbyville basketball program last fall that was in transition and the team finished 9-22.
In the wake of losing the all-time scoring leader Malcom Miller (1st Team All-State) to graduation and losing a veteran coach Bob Herdes, the Shelbyville boys basketball program turned to Matt Colston.
Colston came in with a system to implement and a training schedule against a Ram mindset that was asea. Some students didn’t buy into his expectations or had other priorities and that left Colston short-handed.
Like CHBC girls when they lost a dominant leader in Micah Jones and like Okaw Valley girls when they lost a dominant leader in Paige Robinson, the Rams struggled when they lost their dominant leader Malcolm Miller. All those leaders were All-State went to NCAA D-I or D-II programs.
Nevertheless, the Ram team dove into the season and won the home opener in overtime. They lost a pair, then beat Windsor/Stew-Stras to go to 2-2. They lost the next six games, the last three at the Vandalia Holiday Tourney. They won the next two at Vandalia (4-8).
They lost 4 straight, including an overtime game to Regional Champion Altamont, then won two straight against CHBC and Sullivan (6-12). They lost 4 straight then beat Clinton twice in 3 games (8-17). They lost 3 in a row, then upset Lawrenceville and lost to Salem in the regional.
“I thought our kids were playing their best at the end of the season and really starting to develop the habits we were working on throughout the season,” Colston said. “We upset a good Lawrenceville team, played a good Salem team close for 3 and half quarters, all while having a large number of our kids going through illness.”
“We had some bad luck with players getting injured or missing for other reasons, but our kids improved and were able to get through those rough patches,” Colston said.
He had two juniors that were up and coming headliners and go-to scorers. He had a 3-point shootist and an X-factor senior for the unsung dirty work. With slim pickin’s in summer shoot-a-rounds, a lean freshman transfer became the baseline starter.
The bench had chairs empty and those that had someone sitting in them were filled with role players and underclassmen.
“We finished 9-22 but our only losses to teams with a losing record were to Matoon, who is 3A and has 1100 students, and Salem who played in a 2A regional final and plays a 3A schedule,” Colston said. “We lost 15 games to teams that won 18 or more games this season.
“All of this, despite being short-handed. The players we thought would be in our top 5-6 early in the year only played 8 games together this year due to injuries and other reasons.”
Leading scorer junior Kade Kull, a 3-year starter, scored 514 points (16.6 ppg) and was all-conference, eclipsing the 1000-point career mark. Running mate junior Braden Nichols was a slasher, who scored 334 points (13.9 ppg) with 43 treys.
Junior Leo Logue had developed into a 3-point specialist with 38 treys, but he went down with a season-ending injury after 17 games.
Senior athlete Payton Bryant, not a big scorer, still scored 5 points a game and was the leading offensive rebounder with a 1.1 to .8 assist to turnover ratio and had 43 more assist/steals to turnovers. He also blocked 22 shots.
Freshman Wyatt Nothaus and some shining moments and scored 115 points with 106 rebounds, shooting 43.6% from the floor and dishing 36 assists.
Sophomores Ethan Clark and Matt Beyers came off the bench and played more after Logue’s injury. They had 85 assists between the two of them. Clark filled a 3-point role and Beyers a quick, all-purpose guard role. Senior Evan Matlock was cast into some key cameo appearances.
“I’m very proud of how our kids played at the end of the season and how they fought through a lot of adversity this year,” Colston said. “Hopefully, these kids can build on the experience they gained this year and use it moving forward.”
Seven Ram players had 100 points or more. Only one will be lost to graduation. The top two rebounders from this year will be returning. The top 4 3-point shooters will be back. The top 4 assist leaders will return and the top two steals leaders are coming back.