Baldwin boys basketball team hopes to contend this season

JJ Eads is in his second season as boys varsity basketball coach at Baldwin. (Star photo/John Raffel)

JJ Eads is in his second season as boys varsity basketball coach at Baldwin. (Star photo/John Raffel)

BALDWIN - Boys basketball starts this week at Baldwin with JJ Eads in his second season as Panther varsity boys coach.

The season last year produced a 16-6 record, and 10-game win streak toward the end of the season.

"Defeating co-league champs Brethren was a big win," Eads said. "We showed drastic improvement throughout the season."

The Panthers had some key athletes that have graduated from last season's team or are not with the program.

"Dexter Hossler showed up every day and worked hard," Eads said. "He was a solid outside shooter and defender. Darrion Hayter, we will miss his presence inside, good footwork around the basket. He was very instrumental in our victory against Brethren, containing their 6-foot-8 center."

Key players back include Carmelo Lindsey, a sophomore point guard and shooting guard, "who led us in scoring and steals last year. He will be our floor leader for us, and we want him to lead us," Eads said.

Dylan Hibma "is a senior center and forward-leading rebounder," Eads said. "We want him to average a double-double this year and be energetic on the floor

Leonard McNeeley (senior forward) brings energy on both ends of the floor, and we need him to continue to defend the best players on the other team

"Jesse Pancio, a senior guard, will be another floor leader for us, and can handle and shoot the ball. Karlito McKinney (sophomore guard-forward) will be one of our leading rebounders and be another player that can score and really defend. Derek Mock (senior guard) will help us stretch the floor with shooting. Jalik Hawkins (junior forward-center) is an inside threat on offense and crashes the boards on both ends."

The expectations are high for this season.

"We want to compete for a league title and success in the postseason," Eads said. "We need guys to step up and make plays for that to happen since we are down a couple guys we thought we would have. They have the right attitude so far.

"I think we should be able to score inside and outside. We have some speed and length. Several players lack varsity experience but seem to want to accept the challenge. Our communication and leadership needs to improve but seems to be getting better. We will have to stay out of foul trouble due to having a smaller group than expected."

Baldwin plays in the West Michigan D League.

"Pentwater returns their top two players and other key guys and they shared the league title last year," Eads said.

"Brethren will still be very good, MCC returns everyone except one, Mesick will be improved and deep, and Marion has athletes as their football team went to the semis. I expect us to be in the mix."

The season was locked down on Nov. 16 because of rising COVID numbers. Noncontact workouts resumed on Jan. 16 followed by contact workouts on Feb. 8.

"I know they were frustrated like everyone else," Eads said. "Overall I think they were handling it as good as possible. Even though we couldn't go 5 on 5 or any contact drills (prior to this week), we stress that being in the gym is better than not.

"We have a smaller group than expected but they are working hard and I enjoy working with them."