The Herald Bulletin

November 21, 2013

Boys basketball preview: Carroll hopes to help Panthers take next step

By George Bremer The Herald Bulletin
The Herald Bulletin

---- — ELWOOD — Landon Carroll’s first shot as a boys basketball head coach is coming close to home. With a former rival, no less.

Like fellow Alexandria native Mickey Hosier, Carroll is changing his Central Indiana Conference colors this winter. Hosier is off to a 1-1 start as the leader of Elwood’s girls basketball team this season. Carroll makes his Panthers debut Nov. 30 at Lapel.

The two former Tigers already have formed a common bond, and Carroll said it’s nice to have a familiar face around to lean on and learn from. His Alexandria roots run deep.

Like many former players, legendary Tigers head coach Garth Cone was a major factor in Carroll joining the profession. He learned as much about life from Cone as he did about basketball, and now he’d like nothing better than to pass some of those lessons along to a new generation.

“The reason I got into coaching was to be able to be in that role for our players,” Carroll said. “I hope our players can learn a lot of the same things I learned from Coach Cone.”

Carroll broke into the business seven years ago as a freshman coach at Bloomington North. Three years later he moved on to Madison-Grant, where he served as an assistant coach for Chris Smedley’s final two seasons.

For the past two years, Carroll has been working with Frankton in an unofficial capacity.

Now he’s ready for his first go-around as a head coach at Elwood.

The Panthers return three senior leaders from an 11-11 team, laying a solid foundation. Jared Bourff averaged team-highs with 15.9 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. He’s joined by Anthony Bennett (10.5 points, 4.2 rebounds) and Dakin Updegraff (6.1 points, 2.4 assists).

Other returnees include juniors Griffin Hughes and Jordan Arehart, and senior London Leavell is back after playing as a freshman and sophomore after sitting out his junior season.

Many of those players were part of a football team that went 7-4 and advanced to the sectional semifinals, following up a season in which they won a CIC championship. Coupled with previous success on the basketball floor — Elwood started 6-2 a year ago — that has Carroll excited about this year’s possibilities.

“Winning is a habit,” he said, repeating one of the team’s mantras. “Obviously, that success they had this year in football and the success they’ve been building the last couple of years in basketball is something we feel is beneficial for us. When you’re used to winning, you find ways to make winning plays.”

The Panthers have gone 21-22 over the past two seasons combined, and there is a sense that experience could lead to a step forward this year.

Frankton is the prohibitive favorite in the CIC race, but the rest of the league is likely to be bunched closely together. A similar situation exists in Class 2A Sectional 39, where Tipton likely will draw the most attention, but the rest of the field — including Alexandria and Madison-Grant — should be tightly grouped.

“We want to keep moving that (recent growth) forward,” Carroll said. “We want to compete for the conference title and compete for a sectional title, and we have expectations we can do that.”