Middleton's boys thinking big again

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Rob Reischel
Isaiah Oliver and Middleton's boys basketball team have high hopes this winter./File photo

Four starters from one of the most successful teams in school history have graduated.

Gavyn Hurley, the two-time Player of the Year in the Big Eight Conference and an all-state player last season, has taken his unique skill set to Winona State. And overall, 77% of the scoring and 70% of the rebounding from last year are gone.

Oh well.

While the losses inside Middleton’s boys basketball program are substantial, veteran coach Kevin Bavery is awfully excited about his returnees — and a trio of gifted transfers.

That group has Bavery believing the Cardinals — who went 25-2 last year and won the Big Eight Conference with a 19-1 mark — could be poised for another terrific season. Middleton begins its season Saturday by hosting DeForest at 4 p.m.

“I think we have a chance to shoot it pretty well,” said Bavery, who was inducted into the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in September. “We also have potential lineups who can really get after people in both man to man and zone defenses.

“With a lot of new faces we'll have to show a lot of discipline in playing as a team who reads both the right play and the player to make the right choice at the moment. We have to have a mentality where it doesn't matter who scores, and however the stats and the minutes shake out that we are genuinely happy for every success each individual has and contributions that they make, and most importantly for the greater good of our team success.”

Everything Middleton does will be centered around 6-foot-11 junior center Will Garlock.

Garlock, a second-team all-Big Eight Conference player last season, finished second on the team in scoring (11.7) and rebounding (5.6), and made 62.0% of his field goal attempts.

Garlock holds collegiate offers from Wisconsin, Marquette, Virginia Tech and Penn State, as well as strong interest from Virginia and Iowa.

“He will be a marked man in all our games and will need to be in attack mode for himself and for teammates when the defensive help comes his way,” Bavery said of Garlock. “Will's improved his ability to shoot from the perimeter, as well as attack off the dribble.”

Sophomore point guard Isaiah Oliver could be one of the area’s most improved players.

Oliver was one of the Cardinals’ top reserves as a freshman, where he averaged 3.8 points and 2.0 rebounds per game. Oliver’s minutes — and responsibilities — will jump this winter and Bavery believes he’s ready for it.

“Isaiah has improved his perimeter shooting ability significantly, and has gotten a lot stronger,” Bavery said. “He has the ability to finish at the rim and more importantly to draw attention and find open teammates.”

Senior Avery Houden (2.2 ppg) had an up and down junior year, and Bavery is hoping he plays with greater consistency.

“Avery saw action off the bench as a junior and is ready to make a bigger contribution as a senior,” Bavery said.

Torin Pettaway, a 6-foot-6 junior who’s coming off a terrific football season, could make an ideal tag-team partner inside with Garlock. Other returnees include seniors guards Mason Roquet, Kash Hoye, Whittaker Peters and Bryce Hodson, along with senior post Charlie Determan.

The Cardinals should also get a lift from a trio of gifted transfers — senior guard Gavin Meister, senior wing Damien Hansbro and junior wing Marquis Walker.

Meister was a freshman on Middleton’s JV1 team, then played his sophomore year at Madison Edgewood. He transferred back to Middleton last year and made the Cardinals’ roster, but was ineligible for varsity play due to WIAA transfer rules.

Meister is a terrific shooter and should be poised for a big season.

“His prior experiences and ability make him a great candidate to fill a contributing role,” Bavery said of Meister.

The 6-foot-3 Walker, who was a starter at Milwaukee Juneau last year, transferred into the district this season. Walker averaged 9.4 points and 7.7 rebounds per game at Juneau.

And the 6-foot-4 Hansbro averaged 3.6 points and 3.2 rebounds last season at Madison East before moving into the district this past offseason.

“He brings experience as a varsity player at Madison East,” Bavery said of Hansbro.

Other newcomers to the roster include juniors Drew Cooney, Riley Kann, and Owen Ostreng, as well as sophomore guard Jackson Guerrero.

“There seems to be a good chemistry developing, but as always things get tested during the season, and how we respond to all the successes and challenges will be our biggest key,” Bavery said. “It's easy to identify the problems or issues, but we always want to be based on solutions.”

Middleton should be more athletic than a year ago, when it opened the season 17-0 and eventually reached the sectional semifinals. But the Cardinals lack the experience that last year’s veteran team enjoyed.

“We have some really talented athletes,” Bavery said. “We're using our same basic flow, but are working to add a lot to the mix as we go — mostly in making good reads and adjustments when we attack, and in getting back to being really sound on the defensive end.

“It's great to play spring and summer for lots of reasons, but the skill and athleticism to make plays right now won't work against good teams. Simple things like 1-on-1 contain, jumping to the ball, how we defend screens, getting to our help spots, not overcommitting, and communicating in all aspects of defense takes more time and energy to get back than offense does. Individually it's about discipline and grit, but team cohesiveness in all those aspects is where we have to get better every day.”

Middleton, which won the Big Eight Conference by 4 ½ games over runner-up Madison Memorial last year, figures to be in the hunt for league supremacy once again. But the Spartans and Sun Prairie West — who both return gifted, veteran teams and have added key transfers, as well — are picked by most as the Big Eight favorites.

Others such as Verona, Janesville Craig, Madison La Follette and Madison East figure to be in the hunt, as well.

“As in most years, there aren't any easy outs,” Bavery said.

Bavery also loaded up the non-conference schedule and the Cardinals will play 2023 state runner-up Hartland Arrowhead at the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, defending Fox Valley Conference champion Fond du Lac, defending Greater Metro Conference champion Sussex Hamilton, traditional GMC power Brookfield Central, as well as Badger Conference powers DeForest and Madison Edgewood.

“We might have our toughest non-conference schedule ever,” Bavery said. “There is a lot of controversy over the tournament seeding, and some teams are choosing to schedule differently with non-conference games to gain a seeding advantage. We simply want to play challenging competition and let the seeding sort itself out either way.”

Bavery knows this group has a lot to learn, but he also believes they have the talent and desire to have another terrific season.

“We have to be who we are,” he said. “We have to recognize our strengths and go to them consistently, and then make plays for others off what the defense does.

“The ball simply has to go inside over and over and over again. In transition, against man defense, against zone defense. It can be through penetration, post touches, and offensive rebounding, but we have to touch the paint more than the other team does. If we can do that I think we have a chance to be pretty solid.” 


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