• Indians adjusting format

  • Two weekends ago, Will Penamon and Skylar Thompson stepped onto the court for the Fort Osage boys basketball team’s first summer tournament at Park Hill South.

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  • Two weekends ago, Will Penamon and Skylar Thompson stepped onto the court for the Fort Osage boys basketball team’s first summer tournament at Park Hill South.
    The guards looked at each other and noted how unfamiliar the rest of their teammates on the floor looked. That’s because the Indians are trying to rebuild this offseason after graduating three all-conference standouts and four-year lettermen in D’Vante Mosby, Austin Regier and Zach Adams. Those three have been the faces of the program for the past three seasons and led Fort to back to back district championships and to a berth in the Class 5 quarterfinals this past season.
    Now, the Indians’ challenge is to prove that the program’s recent success was no mirage.
    “It’s kind of weird not seeing D’Vante, Zach and Austin with us,” said Thompson, who scored a team-high 12 points to help lead Fort to a 46-37 win over Summit Christian Academy in Thursday’s summer league game at Lee’s Summit North. “It’s never been like that. But we’ve just got to buckle down and stick to what we’ve got now and keep the program going up and rising.”
    The Indians’ style of play will no doubt change. Mosby, Regier and Adams all stood 6-foot-5 or taller. Now, Fort’s tallest player is 6-foot-3 Nathan Iloilo and the roster is guard heavy. Penamon and Thompson return to give the Indians a couple of veterans in the back court, and Brian Starr, who was the starting point guard two years ago as a sophomore but didn’t play last season, is also back.
    When asked what’s going to be different about this group, Penamon responded with one word.
    “Quick,” said Penamon, who will be a junior in the fall. “Very fast. We have to get after it, be scrappy, be annoying. We’ve got to do all the little things.”
    Fort coach Josh Wilson said he’s taken a hands-off approach this summer. With so many new faces, what the Indians need most is opportunities to play together and get to know each other's games.
    “This is the least amount of coaching I’ve really done in a summer,” Wilson said. “I’m just letting them play, because you look at our roster and the only two who have really played together are Skylar and Will.”
    A huge key, Wilson added, will be how Starr and Penamon coexist on the floor. Although both played varsity two years ago, Penamon was Starr’s backup, and the pair was rarely on the court at the same time.
    Starr provided several sparks Thursday, finishing with seven points and eight rebounds, and Bailey Williamson also provided solid minutes, scoring 10 points and beating SCA down the floor for a couple transition layups.
    Page 2 of 2 - There were lulls, such as a five-minute scoring drought that spanned the end of the first 15-minute half and the first five minutes of the second, but those slumps are to be expected at this stage, Wilson said.
    After falling behind 28-23 early in the second half, the Indians regrouped with a 19-4 run to pull away.
    “We’re just letting them go through those growing pains right now and trying to see what combos work and who works in what role,” Wilson said. “... We keep saying it’s growing pains, and it is.
    “But at the same time, we had a long talk about how we were back-to-back district champions, we won conference for the first time, we won sectionals, and it’s not a fluke. We’re going to show people that it’s not a fluke. We’re going to be back just as gritty and just as tenacious as we were this year, just a little different format.”
    Follow Shawn Garrison on Twitter: @GarrisonEJC

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