Coming off two consecutive seasons in which the Marquette Catholic High School boys basketball team finished one-point away from a sectional championship, expectations are sky-high for the Blazers, who return all five starters, including last season's leading scorer Ryan Fazekas.
But the past is the past, Head Coach Donovan Garletts said, and the Blazers are looking forward - and not letting the near misses from seasons past affect the goals of the 2013-14 campaign.
The Blazers will be led by three-year varsity starters Fazekas, JoVonte Peals and Braxton Miller - all juniors who have been team leaders since the day they began playing for Marquette.
Seniors Nathan Flores and Richard Mitchell are the other returning starters who will provide leadership to the Blazers, who are ranked No. 1 in the Class 1A SuperHoopsPlus.com preseason rankings. They are the only Northwest Indiana team ranked among the top 15 in that division.
"I don't look too much into the rankings," Garletts said. "Nine out of the 10 (voters) probably haven't even seen us play, they are just basing it off of last year. 95 percent of it is team chemistry, coaching and what the boys do together. I don't rely on them (rankings) too much because what is in the past doesn't matter."
The Blazers finished the 2012-13 season with an 18-6 record, but lost to Triton by one-point in the Sectional championship - an ending to the season that was all too familiar for Garletts' crew. A one-point defeat to the same team prevented Marquette from reaching the Regional the year before as well. A chance for revenge, however, would not come until the Regional (if both Marquette and Triton qualify) since the Blazers were moved to another Sectional this year by the Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA).
"It certainly is a form of motivation," Garletts said referring to the consecutive playoff defeats. "The boys handled it well. It didn't go our way (last year), but we still have two more chances since (our leaders) are juniors."
Garletts says he doesn't anticipate any surprises this year, and that Fazekas will again be a leader on the floor. Having a starting lineup that is filled with experience also bodes well for Marquette.
"I don't see anyone being a surprise, but they have all improved individually," Garletts said.
Following an instrasquad scrimmage on November 22, the Blazers will begin regular season play on Tuesday, November 26 with a match-up against Rock Ridge High School (Illinois) on the road. Having to face Ethan Happ, a Rock Ridge senior forward headed to the University Wisconsin in 2014, will be no easy way for the Blazers to kickoff the new season.
"Anytime you are playing against a team with a Big Ten recruit, you know it's going to be a big game," Garletts said. "We are excited about the opportunity and hopefully we will rise to the occassion."
Garletts says that while the Blazers' schedule includes contests all over the Midwest, he is looking forward to a stretch of six home games over Christmas break the most.
"It going to be a fun Christmas break," he said. "We play a lot of Catholic schools and finally got Andrean on the schedule (January 11) to cap it off."
And despite the high expectations from outside observers, Garletts says the Blazers are taking things day-by-day, only focused on Rock Ridge at the moment.
"We are just trying to get better every single day and I think the wins will come if we are all doing our jobs in practice," he said.
Marquette Blazers 2013-14 Team Schedule:
Date Opponent Site Time
11/22 Intrasquad Scrimmage Home 07:30 pm
11/26 Tournament of Champions vs Rockridge Away 05:30 pm
11/27 Tournament of Champions vs Peoria Manual Away 04:00 pm
11/30 North Newton Home 01:30 pm
12/06 Hanover Central Away 07:30 pm
12/07 Whiting Away 07:00 pm
12/13 River Forest Home 07:00 pm
12/21 Bishop McNamara Home 07:00 pm
12/28 De La Salle Home 06:00 pm
01/03 St. Joseph Home 06:00 pm
01/10 Bishop Noll Home 07:00 pm
01/11 Andrean Home 07:00 pm
01/18 St. Ignatius Away 07:00 pm
01/20 GSSC Tourn. Away 07:00 pm
01/21 GSSC Tourn. Away 07:00 pm
01/24 GSSC Tourn. Away 07:00 pm
01/25 GSSC Tourn. Away 07:00 pm
01/31 Lake Station Away 07:00 pm
02/01 Wheeler Home 01:30 pm
02/07 Lew Wallace Away 07:00 pm
02/14 New Buffalo Away 07:00 pm
02/22 Calumet Home 07:00 pm
02/28 Elkhart Memorial Away 07:00 pm
03/04 IHSAA Sectionals Away TBA
03/07 IHSAA Sectionals Away TBA
03/08 IHSAA Sectionals Away TBA
03/15 IHSAA Regionals Away TBA
03/22 IHSAA Semi-State Away TBA
03/29 IHSAA State Away TBA
Marquette High School Boys Basketball Roster, 2013-14
Name Position Height Grade
Ian Smith Head Manager 6' Senior
Richard Mitchell G 6' Senior
Braxton Miller G 6' Junior
Malcolm Reed F 6'2 Junior
Jordan Raney G 5'5 Junior
Aramis Sims G 5'10 Junior
Nathan Flores G 5'10 Senior
Cortland Gillespie G 5'10 Senior
JoVonte Peals G 6'3 Junior
Ryan Fazekas G/F 6'8 Junior