By Chris Chaney
Despite losing a solid group of senior leaders from their sectional finalist team a year ago, the Clermont Northeastern Rockets have a good mixture of returning experience and youthful exuberance that Coach Jason Iles plans to mold into the school’s second winning season in three years.
Through just two games, the Rockets have an even 1-1 record, losing to a solid Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy team on opening night, but rebounding the next week with a conference win over Felicity.
“I’m very pleased with how things have started,” Iles said. “Our practices have been great, the kids are working hard, busting their butts every day. I couldn’t be happier.
“I guess I could be happier, we could be 2-0, but we had a pretty good showing opening night, but I think we’re going to be a tough beat.”
The Rockets have a good mixture of age and skill with five seniors, five juniors and four sophomores on their roster.
Iles is banking on his seniors leading the way and he has a good crop of them to shoulder that burden buoyed by 6-foot-4 center Derick Schmidt who is averaging 10 points per game and just under 10 rebounds.
“Wow, he’s off to great start, almost averaging a double-double a night,” Iles said of his senior leader.
The coach was also quick to praise the other fourth year players that surround Schmidt.
“Chad Dorsey is off to a good start, Patrick Cornett is off to a great start, he’s another senior,” Iles said. “Our senior leadership is where I expected it to be.
“I got great minutes in our first league contest out of Austin Thompson who came in the game and played terrific defense and chipped in eight points.”
While the seniors are expected to steady the ship, the Rockets may find most of their offense coming from junior guard Jay Teaney.
After scoring nine points in the season opener against CHCA, Teaney went off against Felicity, scoring a game-high 28 points that included three field goals from beyond the arc.
“We got a great start from the junior guard Jay Teaney,” Iles said. “He chipped in 28 on Friday (Dec. 7) against Felicity, but he can’t be doing it all by himself. I’m about eight players deep and running in and out those guys, we don’t miss a beat.”
Iles and the Rockets have gotten a nice boost from an unexpected contributor early in the 2012-13 campaign in the form of Tramaine Smith.
“(Smith) is one of the hardest working kids I have in the program right now. (He) was scheduled to play three or four quarters for the JV,” Iles explained. “Well, we ended up finding him a starting role last Friday.”
Smith has come in and given the Rockets 3.5 points per game over the first two weeks as well as another body to help run what Iles calls an “up-tempo defense” that gets into their opponents’ face and forces turnovers.
The turnover for the Rockets has been fairly easy to begin the season, playing only two games in two weeks, but things are about to get a little more hectic with six games coming in 11 days that started with a Southern Buckeye Conference game against Williamsburg on Tuesday, Dec. 11.
“We’ve got a very important stretch (coming up),” Iles said. “We have two big contests coming up with Williamsburg and Blanchester, two good basketball teams and we have to concentrate on those league wins before we do anything.
“You have to crawl before you walk and walk before you run. So, we’re taking it one game at a time and we’ve got a pretty good game plan.”