High School Basketball Chat: Newport Catholic Coach Ron Dawn
Newport Central Catholic has fielded arguably the most talented basketball teams in Northern Kentucky over the past two seasons, but lack the regional and state hardware that other local rivals have earned in that span.
While New Cath has dominated the All A Tournament—which is a state-wide tournament featuring the Commonwealth’s smaller schools—their success has not translated into 9th Regional titles.
During those seasons, the Thoroughbreds had big players in their front court that allowed them to play a high-low game and run their offense through one of the best players in school history, Drew McDonald. Now that McDonald has moved on to Northern Kentucky University, the 'Breds will be a bit smaller with perhaps four guards on the floor at once.
Head Coach Ron Dawn has some emerging starters on his roster that have previously been in more of a supporting role. Those complimentary youngsters will revolve around senior forward Ben Weyer who showed the athleticism last year to play well in transition, be a natural shot blocker with his quick leaping ability and knock down open jumpers from the outside.
“Ben Weyer is not a guy who just lives on the block,” Dawn said. “He can come out and face up the basket. Actually, he might be our best three-point shooter and he has really improved putting the ball on the floor. He’s going to play a variety of positions for us.”
Supporting Weyer down low will be junior center Trey Wurtz who showed promise last season, mainly at the end of blowouts, with the ability to finish around the rim and provide size when they need it.
Listen to New Cath Head Coach Ron Dawn talk with RCN's Bryan Burke about the 2015-16 season:
“Trey is coming on, but he still has a little ways to go. He’s improving for us. He just has to continue to work hard and learn that he has to play hard all the time. When he plays hard, he’s pretty effective,” Dawn said.
Perhaps the most exciting up and comer for the Breds this season is guard Brennan Hall who also put in quality minutes when he got the chance last year and drew rave reviews this summer in the AAU circuit.
“Brennan had a great summer with his AAU team. He got invited to play on a really good team and play in a national tournament. He’s gotten bigger and stronger and has improved. His shooting off of the dribble has come a long way. Last year he was either a spot up player or take it all the way to the basket, but his mid-range game has really improved. He has to keep working to get better defensively, but he does a lot. He can play the 1 or the 2 for us. He has a great feel for the game, sees the floor and gets the other guys involved and they love playing with him.”
It will be likely to see Hall distribute the ball to shooters like Jon Ludwig on the wing who has become a dead-eye three-point threat from the outside. The key will be to keep Ludwig’s confidence up throughout the season so that the shooting stroke continues undeterred.
“Jon Ludwig is getting better,” Dawn said. “He’s a great shooter with range up to 30 feet. He knows he has to get better with his ball handling, doing things off the dribble and he has to get better defensively, but he is another one that has worked hard this summer. He’s going to surprise some people. If you didn’t see him play in the JV games, then you’re not sure about him, but he’s improved and is going to help us a bunch. We have to get him to where when he misses a couple, he’s not going to worry about it. Jon’s the kind of guy that can miss five in a row and then make the next five but he has to believe that he can’t get down because he missed a couple. Sometimes he’s his own worst enemy with that. I always tell him that the best thing to do is to forget about that last shot. When you’re a pure shooter, don’t have a conscious, just go out there and keep firing them up.”
Others believed to have heavy contributions this year for New Cath is guards Luke Moeves and Steven Pangallo along with the Anderson brothers, Eric and Brian.
The problem with the Anderson boys is that one of those guys plays soccer and the other one plays football so they’re going to be a little bit behind when they get there, but they will get caught up,” said the head coach.
Because they will be smaller this year, NCC may be able to prevent the approach that took them out of the regional tournament the last two seasons.
“Part of the thing with us the last two years is that when you get to the tournament at the end of the year, the game slows down a little bit, teams get a lead on you, and they want to hold it and spread you out,” Dawn said. “We had big guys and I tried to warn them all year that when we get behind teams, they were just going to spread us out and make our big guys go chase, and that is what happened with Holmes last year and Cov Cath a little bit. I knew that when we got behind on Holmes with Markel McClendon and James Bolden and basically had four guards out there, that Drew or Ben had to go out and guard one of those guys way out on the parameter and whoever Drew was on, they tried to take him away. So I think that was a factor for us. This year, we may be the team that does that when we get a lead because we will be playing four guards most of the time.”
The schedule will have New Cath tested once it’s time again to attempt to earn a ticket to the state tournament in Lexington. The team will play in The King of the Bluegrass Tournament in addition to a one-game special against Lexington Catholic and also Campbell County in the John Turner Classic in Newport. Then, of course, is the All A which New Cath has won on a state level in back-to-back seasons.
“The last couple of years we had kind of an easy road in the All A, but that’s not going to be the case this year. Lloyd, St. Henry and Holy Cross all are going to be much improved and it’s at Lloyd this year, so it’s not going to be easy,” he said.
New Cath started its season on Tuesday with a 92-39 rout of Dayton. The 'Breds face Lexington Catholic on Saturday.
-Bryan Burke, associate editor
Photo by RCN's Brian Frey