A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Boys Basketball Preview: Coaches expect top-ranked CovCath to continue program’s winning tradition

By Terry Boehmker
NKyTribune sports reporter

Covington Catholic being ranked No. 1 in the Northern Kentucky preseason coaches poll comes as no surprise when you consider the program’s winning tradition under coach Scott Ruthsatz.

Over the last 11 seasons, the Colonels have reached the 9th Region tournament final nine times, won six region championships and compiled a 12-3 record in “Sweet 16” state tournament games.

CovCath point guard Evan Ipsaro averaged 21.7 and 5.8 assists per game last season. (Photo by Dale Dawn)

CovCath won state titles in 2014 and 2018, made it to the semifinals in 2015 and 2022, lost in the first round in 2019 and was one of the teams in the 2020 state tournament that was cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns.

Ruthsatz expects this year’s team to be a top contender again with guards Evan Ipsaro, Kascyl McGillis and Brady Hussey leading the way. They were three of the top five scorers on last year’s 30-5 state semifinal team.

“All three of them played very well in our state tournament run last year and that has given them a lot of confidence,” Ruthsatz said. “We do not have the size we typically do so we will be looking to push the ball on offense and will need to be physical on the defensive boards.”

Ipsaro is a senior point guard who averaged 21.7 points, 5.8 assists and 2.8 rebounds last season when he was named first-team all-state. He shot 57 percent (259 of 451) from the field and 90 percent (185 of 205) at the line.

Scott Ruthsatz

“He has been our leading scorer since his sophomore year,” Ruthsatz said of the Miami University of Ohio recruit. “He can score in many ways and is always a willing passer. Evan is also relentless on defense.”

McGillis averaged 7.7 points with a team-high 70 3-point goals last season. Hussey posted a 6.7 average, but he was a double-figure scorer in five of eight postseason playoff games and named to the state all-tournament team along with Ipsaro.

None of the other CovCath players averaged more than 2.8 point per game last season so it will be interesting to see how long it takes the team to get the four victories Ruthsatz needs to become the program’s winningest coach.

Here’s a look at the other Northern Kentucky boys basketball teams ranked in the top 10 in a preseason poll of local coaches:

2. Cooper Jaguars

After posting losing records two consecutive years, the Jaguars came roaring back last season. Cooper finished 22-7 with five underclassmen among the top eight players in coach Tim Sullivan’s rotation.

Caleb Brooks

One of the returning starters is 6-foot-9 junior forward Caleb Brooks, who had team-high averages of 14.3 points and 6.7 rebounds. He shot 50.2 percent (149 of 297) from the field and 76.3 percent (103 of 135) at the line.

Sophomore guard Yamil Rondon and 6-foot-5 senior forwards Trevor Ollier and Gavin Lutz also saw a lot of playing time last season. If Shaun Pouncy, a 6-foot-6 transfer student, gets permission to play, Sullivan will have his tallest team in 14 years as coach of the Jaguars.

“Our overall length and size will give (other) teams problems,” Sullivan said. “Being able to play in multiple ways, whether playing up-tempo or a slow-down game, will be a huge asset.”

Defensively, the Jaguars will be able to mix zone with man-to-man to give teams different looks. Last season, they allowed just 49 points per game, a defensive average that ranked eighth in the statewide statistics.

3. Lloyd Juggernauts

The Juggernauts have their top two scorers returning, but five players who helped last year’s team post a 22-8 record and reach the 9th Region tournament semifinals for the first time since 2012 graduated in the spring.

Jeremiah Israel

Lloyd coach Michael Walker expects 6-foot-3 senior guard Jeremiah Israel and 6-foot-8 forward Ej Walker to make their inexperienced teammates better as the 2022-23 season progresses. Both of them were among the top five players selected by local coaches in a preseason poll.

Israel accepted a scholarship offer from Northern Kentucky University after averaging a team-high 16.1 points and 5.7 rebounds points last season. Walker, the coach’s son, is drawing attention from several major colleges after averaging 10.7 points and 6.2 rebounds as a freshman.

The leading candidates to fill the Juggernauts’ other starting positions are senior Bray Riley and sophomore guards Isaiah Sebastian and Elijah Scott.

4. Conner Cougars

With the top three scorers returning from last year’s 20-10 season, the Cougars are expected to be among the eight teams that make it to the 9th Region tournament for the fifth consecutive year.

Landen Hamilton

Landen Hamilton had a team-high 17.4 scoring average last season with Daniel Campbell and Ayden Lohr both contributing 12 points per game. Hamilton and Lohr made a combined total of 109 3-point goals. Campbell shot 49 percent from the field and averaged a team-high 6.0 rebounds.

“All three bring back valuable experience that should help us have another good year,” said coach Matt Otte.

The coach said the other four seniors on the roster “will have to step up and play roles they haven’t had before.” Two of them are Dalton Kramer and Grant Reece, who both saw action in 29 games last season.

The Cougars were one of the top 10 free throw shooting teams in the state last year. They shot 75.2 percent with Kramer, Lohr, Campbell and Hamilton all hitting 79 percent or better.

5. Holy Cross Indians

Jacob Meyer

The Indians have a dynamic backcourt in senior guards Jacob Meyer and Javier Ward, who had a combined average of 55 points per game on last year’s 21-10 team that won the 9th Region All “A” Classic and made it to the semifinals of the post-season region tournament.

Meyer had the state’s highest scoring average at 38.2 and set a region record with 1,109 total points last season. If he scores 916 points in his senior season, he’ll break the 9th Region boys career scoring record of 3,128 points set by Beechwood guard Scotty Draud in 2021.

“He is a bouncy athlete who can score at the rim with both hands, beat you from mid-range and behind the arc,” coach Casey Sorrell said of Meyer. “He will turn heads all over the state.”

Sorrell said Ward’s explosiveness and ability to get in the paint makes him “a game changing play-maker.” The team’s other returning senior starter is 7-foot center Sam Gibson, who gives the Indians a strong inside presence.

6. Highlands Bluebirds

Will Herald

Over the last four seasons, Highlands has won 100 games and the 2021 state championship under coach Kevin Listerman, who said this year’s team is hungry to prove they can compete in the 9th Region after losing four starters to graduation.

The Bluebirds’ top returning starter from last year’s 22-9 season is senior Will Herald, who averaged 18.4 points, shot 50.5 percent (112 of 222) from 3-point range and made 84.2 percent (85 of 101) of his foul shots.

The only other senior on the roster is 6-foot-3 forward Seth Ryan, but Listerman has a long list of juniors who saw action last season. One of them is 6-foot-5 forward Brody Benke, who averaged 5.3 points and shot 63.8 percent from the field coming off the bench in 30 games.

“The big key will be our ability to defend and rebound,” coach Listerman said. “We will again look to push the pace and play an exciting brand of basketball.”

7. Newport Wildcats

Young and talented are the two words that best describe the Wildcats, who have one senior, one junior, five sophomores, six freshmen and one eighth-grader on the varsity roster.

“Newport has a lot of talented players in a very tough 9th Region,” coach Rod Snapp said. “It will be interesting to see how the youth steps up to the challenges of the season.”

The lone senior is Marquez Miller, who averaged 15.4 points and 5.9 rebounds on last year’s 9-19 team that never won more than two games in a row.  Snapp considers Tylen Kinney and James Turner two of the area’s top freshmen after earning starting roles last season. Kinney averaged 9.5 points and shot 45 percent from the field.

8. Campbell County Camels

A perennial contender in the 10th Region tournament over the last nine years, the Camels are counting on senior veterans Aydan Hamilton and Jake Gross to extend that streak this season.

“Aydan is a strong player in every aspect of the game. He will be a big part of our success this year,” said coach Aric Russell. “Jake is a strong and physical guard who is our best defender and can shoot the 3.”

Hamilton, a double-figure scorer each of the last three years, averaged a team-high 19.6 points and 5.7 rebounds last season when Campbell County lost in the 10th Region semifinals and finished with a 20-6 record. Gross averaged 12 points and shot 40 percent (84 of 210) from 3-point range.

9. Simon Kenton Pioneers

The Pioneers have one of the state’s tallest players in 7-foot-3 senior Gabe Dynes, who averaged 7.2 points, 6.9 rebounds and 4.4 blocks per game last season on a team that posted a 14-12 record.

Dynes, a Youngstown State recruit, has “improved tremendously” during the offseason, according to coach Trent Steiner. He is expected to play a bigger role on offense in addition to being an intimidating presence on defense with his size and reach.

Simon Kenton’s other returning starter is junior guard Travis Krohman, who averaged 11.9 points per game with 59 of his 96 field goals coming from behind the 3-point line. How well sophomore Jay Bilton handles the point guard duties will have an impact on the team’s goal of winning an 8th Region championship.

10. St. Henry Crusaders

Dave Faust needs 10 wins to move to the top of the 9th Region boys basketball coaches career victories list and he has a solid group of seniors to help him attain that goal this season.

The Crusaders lost the top two scorers and rebounders on last year’s 14-10 team to graduation, but Faust has several returning players who gained valuable experience. The list includes senior guards Matthew Resing, Jack Grayson and Rhet Ravenscraft, who had combined averages of 25.7 points and 10.6 rebounds per game.

Another returning senior guard on St. Henry’s roster is Ethan Kaiser, who shot 53 percent from the field overall, 45 percent from behind the 3-point arc and 80 percent at the foul line.

Related Posts

Leave a Comment