Rick Hodge knows he will have more known commodities back than normal, but what that means for Platte County’s fortunes remains to be seen.
Four of five starters return from a 13-14 team that lost in the Class 4 District 16 semifinals to rival Kearney last season. That marked a sixth straight loss in district play to the rivals from across Highway 92 and ended the careers of seniors Will Hay and Dylan Minshall.
Going into last season, Minshall was the only returning starter for Platte County and Hodge, who effectively found a way to replace 85 percent of its scoring from 2018-2019. The Pirates will now have the bulk of its scoring back with hopes of building on last year’s success.
Platte County seniors Joey Schultz (15.3 points) and Jaden Burnett (9.0 points) were the top scorers a year ago.
Schultz was a second team All-Suburban Conference Blue Division performer and all-district pick along with Minshall (8.6 points and 4.8 rebounds per game). Schultz, a 6-foot-6 forward, added 2 inches to his height last season, when he notched 7.3 rebounds, 1.7 blocks and 2.0 steals per game. He capped a successful year by scoring 27 against Smithville in the district opener, two off his career-high of 29 scored against St. Joseph Central earlier in the season.
Opening his senior season with a pair of offers from NAIA schools Iowa Wesleyan and University of St. Mary, Schultz will be joining practice late this year while completing his football season.
A guard, Burnett was Platte County’s other all-conference pick, earning honorable mention honors. Pirates senior Alex McClure (5.3 points per game) will join him in the backcourt.
Brody Fulk, a 6-3 junior forward, averaged 6.0 points per game a year ago and will be the fourth returning starter.
Other players that could contribute include senior guards Ben Doole and Daunte Alaiwat; senior forwards Dylan Montes and Cooper Wilcox; junior guards Jarrett Mueller and Jace Trimble and sophomore forward Chandavian Bradley.
Despite last year’s inexperienced roster, Platte County closed out the month of January with a 9-7 record and a spot in the Grain Valley Sonic Invitational title game. The Pirates lost that one to to St. Michael the Archangel, starting a three-game skid.
Platte County alternated wins and losses through the final eight games, but the 13 wins marked a seven-win improvement from the previous year. The biggest issue for the Pirates continues to be Kearney, which won all three meetings between the teams last year and are 14-3 against the Pirates since 2015 — counting the district dominance.
For the second year in a row, a late football postseason run has made some of the athletes playing for Hodge, who is entering his 19th year at the helm, unavailable, but once in place, optimism will be abound.
“We need to improve every day,” Hodge said, “We’re getting off to a slow start with football players coming in late. We need to stay connected to gradually get better so we’re playing our best basketball at the end of the season.”