Dover — After having to postpone their first four games of the season due to the football team's run to the state championship, the Western Boone boys basketball season is ready to get underway Friday night at Lebanon.
But all the football players are back in the gym now, and the Stars are full-speed ahead in their preparations.
"Their attitude and effort has been great," Lickliter said. "They came in right from the get-go and have had great effort. The 11 players we have had here since the beginning were great too. They had 17 practices without the football guys, and the football guys have come in with a lot of enthusiasm for what we are trying to accomplish is great."
While it is a different sport, Lickliter said that he believes the football team's run can carry over onto the hardwood.
He said that even after a long 15 week season, the energy and confidence is evident.
"I do think it's infectious," Lickliter said. "You have a collective confidence and competitive nature. Those guys come in expecting to do big things. Naturally you hope that those things carry over and that there isn't a downfall because football is over. You want them to keep up that energy and get ready to compete again."
One thing that has helped as the Stars get ready for the season is that most of the players are returning from last year, which was Lickliter's first at Western Boone.
While they haven't been able to add much new yet, Lickliter said the experience and familiarity has put them ahead of where they were at this point last year.
"You can see that already," Lickliter said. "We are getting up-and-down and doing 5-on-5 drills, and it's apparent the guys know what is expecting and what we are trying to accomplish. We are showing better poise and patience in our offense than we were showing two months in to the season last year."
Last year the Stars went 7-16 on the season, but went just 3-12 after Christmas.
This year they return seven of their top eight scorers from a season ago and look to build on the foundations they created last year.
"We want to improve on last year," Lickliter said. "Last year, we didn't finish the season very well. Ultimately the goal is to do better in those tight situations and to have a better mindset going into some of those. The ultimate goal is to win the conference and then win the sectional and be competitive in the state tournament. We want to have that championship attitude every day. To get there, the guys have to buy in and have to want it. Fortunately, we have kids like that."
When looking at leaders on the team, Lickliter said a couple of the seniors stand out.
"Peyton Young was a captain for us last year and just steps into those leadership roles," Lickliter said. "They say you can make anyone a captain, but can't make them a leader, and in PY you have that leader. It doesn't matter what sport it is, he wants to win and in doing so, he is going to let other people know where to be to help the team accomplish that. Then you have a guy like Lucas Morton, who through his work ethic and his commitment to basketball, takes on a natural leadership role. He isn't the most vocal, but he leads by example."
Morton was the Stars leading scorer a season ago, averaging 13.1 points a contest.
Also back is Spencer Wright, who averaged 11.4 points and 5.8 rebounds a game. Young (7.4 points, 2.6 rebounds, 3.2 assists), Patrick Shallenberger (6.1 points, 4.2 rebounds) and Connor Hole (5.6 points) are all back after scoring more than five points a game.
Lickliter said that balance is going to be the strength of the team.
"The team is going to be our strength, and that is the goal as a coach," Lickliter said. "You can have one or two guys, but if they don't have the support of the rest of the team, then it doesn't matter. You look at our football team, and the offense knew they could rely on the defense, and vice versa. The hope is, we can get that same level of team play on the court, so that our strength is us relying on each other."
Western Boone last won the conference title in 1993, the only conference title in school history.
Lickliter said if the Stars are going to break that string this year, they will have to get past some tough teams, including the two schools that have been at the top of the standings the past few seasons.
"It is a great conference," Lickliter said. "Every year Danville and Tri-West are up there. Even when they lose guys, they don't really rebuild, they reload. I think those two teams will be up there, and then some of the other teams have lost some people, but are still tough. A team like Crawfordsville may have lost a 20-point scorer, but then they come together as a team and may be better."
The Stars know it is a tough task starting the season at Lebanon in what should be a good atmosphere.
Lickliter said the Stars can't worry about the anything outside what they control.
"We are just taking it one game at a time, and it just happens that this is our first game and it's at Lebanon," Lickliter said. "It's a county rival, it's a conference game, and we just have to stay poised and under control and not the let the situation get too big. They are going to have a little chip on their shoulder because we got them last year, so we have to be ready for every shot they take."