BY CHAD DARE
Most people wouldn’t expect a team that advanced to a National Tournament to make major changes the next season.
But, that’s exactly what is happening with the Danville Area Community College men’s basketball team.
A year after the Jaguars won the Region 24B title and shared the Mid-West Athletic Conference title, head coach Mike Carpenter is making a major offensive change this season.
“It’s very different — contrasting styles and the makeup of this team is totally different,’’ said Carpenter, who does have five players back that all started at least one game and all five played in the National Tournament. “Last year, we had to manufacture offense and manufacture baskets. We had to control the tempo, and keep it slower because we didn’t have the depth get up-and-down with other teams.
“This year, it’s completely different. We want to force the tempo and play fast. That’s much more my style and much more how we want to play.’’
And it’s a style that the players want to play.
“We are going to be very aggressive,’’ DACC sophomore Evan Blackmon said. “We are going to be a more fast-paced team.’’
And a big reason for that is the fact that the Jaguars have a full roster this season. A year ago, the team lost six scholarship players for various reasons right before Christmas.
“We’re definitely faster,’’ DACC sophomore Derek Shouse said. “We’re also more athletic and we have a deeper bench.
“We have more tools to the team that we can use this year.’’
Joining Blackmon and Shouse as returning sophomores this year is Andrew Mitchell, Bobby Blackwell and former Chrisman standout Cody Owen.
But, that’s not the only experience that Carpenter has on his roster.
DACC has also added transfers Chris Whitehead, who played at Weatherford College a year ago, along with Mike Ryce, who played high school basketball at Thornton in Harvey and David Hicks, out of Indianapolis George Washington.
“We are fortunate to have a lot of older players this year,’’ Carpenter said. “Four of our players are 21 or older and having that maturity at this point in the season has helped us progress quicker than we have in the past.
“We don’t have to spend much time explaining things in practice.’’
And having a talent like Whitehead, who was an Indiana All-Star two years ago out of New Albany, is a nice luxury.
“Chris Whitehead is getting the most attention,’’ Carpenter said. “He is a tremendous leader and a floor general. He plays extremely hard and he makes us go.
“He controls the game unlike any point guard that I’ve coached as an assistant or as a head coach.’’
With a lot experience returning and influx of talented transfers, the Jaguars were rated No. 13 in the NJCAA Division II preseason poll.
“It is a nice honor, but at the same time, it’s not a big deal,’’ Blackmon said. “Rankings don’t mean anything.
“We want to get back to the National Tournament and get a higher place than we did last year.’’
A year ago, DACC lost its first-round game to the eventual National Champion Mott Bears, but the Jaguars came back to finish eighth, losing the consolation championship to Erie.
“We have a lot of experience coming back, so we have high expectations to make it farther than we did last year,’’ said Shouse, the team’s leading returning scorer.
But, how does a team deal with those expectations?
“I think we think about last year, we try to express it to everyone that we have to work hard and buy into the system because it works,’’ Shouse said.
Carpenter added that having a national ranking just put a bigger bull’s-eye on his team’s back.
“It makes the other teams on our schedule and in our region want to beat us more,’’ he said. “We can’t take any days off in practice or any nights off in games.’’
But that hasn’t been a problem so far.
“This group is one of our more focused groups that we’ve had as far as taking care of their business on and off the court,’’ Carpenter said. “It‘s also probably our most talented group that we’ve had in our seven seasons — we have depth at every position.
“But as far as expectations and so forth, we will let that take care of itself.’’
In the first game of the 2012-13 season, the DACC Jaguars upended the fifth-rated Lakeland College Lakers 78-70 in the opening-round of the Triton Tip-off Classic.
Shouse was the leading scorer for the Jaguars with 21 points, followed by freshman Raheem Jackson and Evan Blackmon with 13 each and Mike Ryce chipped in with 12. Freshman Ronnie White added nine points, seven rebounds and eight blocked shots.
DACC will play Cincinnati State in a 6 p.m. semifinal tonight at Triton.
DACC will not make its home debut until Nov. 13 when the Jaguars host the Lincoln Trail Statesmen in a 7:30 p.m. contest at the Mary Miller Gymnasium.