Butte Central’s boys’ basketball team returns four key players from last year.
The Maroons, though, might not be easy to recognize as they open the 2012-13 season Friday and Saturday at the BC Tip-Off Tournament at the Butte Civic Center and Maroon Activities Center.
Expect a more up-tempo team as the Maroons look to bounce back from a rare season in which they didn’t make the Class A state tournament.
“The last few years we were so methodical,” Butte Central coach Brodie Kelly said. “Every possession was surgery.”
Kelly enters his ninth year leading the Maroons. He is 125-62 at BC, and his teams made the State tournament in his first seven years. Last year BC missed out after a nail-biting loss to Stevensville in the Southwestern A Divisional semifinals in Dillon.
Kelly says this year’s team brings a lot more versatility to the table.
“What’s new about this team compared to a lot of teams in the past is I think we’ve got four starters who can all potentially score 15-20 points, and they’re all versatile,” Kelly said. “They’re perimeter guys, they can score off in the paint, they can score off the dribble. It’s nice.”
Senior Brady Tippett is the lone returning starter. He was an All-Conference player a year ago, averaging 10.2 points per game in the regular season.
Kelly marvels at Tippett’s work ethic and love of the game.
“He’s a machine,” Kelly said. “He just absolutely lives for basketball. We practice two hours a day. He comes here after school and shoots for 20 minutes or a half hour, lifts, comes up here for practice and then everyday he stays in the gym an extra 15 minutes shooting. Even during football, he’s in here.”
Tippett reached double figures in nine regular season games, including one 20-point performance. Kelly says he can hurt opponents in many ways.
“What’s great about him is he’s such a versatile scorer,” Kelly said. “He can catch and shoot, he’s good off the dribble, he’s good in the post. ”
Tippett will be joined in the starting lineup by juniors Connor McGree Kale Guldseth and Nate Bolstad and sophomore Marcus Ferriter.
Guldseth, Bolstad and Ferriter were key reserves last year. McGree was a junior varsity player last year.
“We really have four of our top eight guys back from last year,” Kelly said. “So even though we’ve only got two seniors, I don’t feel like we’re inexperienced compared to most teams. We’ve got some guys who played some varsity.”
Guldseth, who is listed at 5-foot-10, has gotten bigger since last season. Kelly said the guard who reached double digits scoring four times last year in the regular season has also grown as a player.
“He just looks so much more confident and assertive than he did last year,” Kelly said.
The 6-4 Bolstad is looking to build on the promise he showed last year before injuries slowed him down late in the season, while the 6-3 McGree produced as a freshman last season.
McGree is an athletic 6-3 post player.
Kelly feels his team is at least eight deep heading into the season. Senior Emmett McCarty, sophomores Danny Peoples and Dalton Sessions will be the first players off the bench.
McCarthy is BC’s tallest player at 6-5. He’s looking to follow in the footsteps of his brother, Keegan, who first became a force as a senior for the Maroons.
Peoples, who played junior varsity as a freshman, has grown to 5-11, while Sessions is 6-1.
Juniors Wyatt Kingston and Jimmy Martz and sophomores Chad Peterson and Kaemen Richards are also listed on the BC roster and will vie for playing time.
The Maroons went 13-8 last season, and their bid to get back to state won’t be an easy one.
Only two teams advance from state from a conference that includes defending Class A State champion Dillon, which returns senior Ben Folsom.
Stevensville went to State last year, and the Yellowjackets return three All-Conference players in Zack Gavlak, Jesse Sims and Jared Schultz.
Kelly said he expects Hamilton to be tough after finishing last season strong. Corvallis and Anaconda are kind of a mystery with new coaches taking over this season.
The Maroons will need to be sharp out of the gate. After playing Browning and Laurel in non-conference games at the Tip-Off Tournament, the Maroons play Conference games against Stevensville, Anaconda and Hamilton before the Christmas break.
The divisional tournament is Feb. 21-23 on Butte Central’s home court at the Maroon Activities Center. The State tournament is March 7-9 in Billings.
Click here for BC’s full schedule.