Chagrin Falls opens the 2023-24 season with just two returning starters and one senior on the roster, but the Tigers remain optimistic they’ll be in the hunt come March.
“With only one returning senior, we will be very inexperienced to start the year,” said 19th-year head coach Dave Bargar. “We feel that we have the pieces in place to be successful at some point, but there is a lot of work to be done before that happens. We need to have everyone healthy, and we must learn what it takes to compete at the varsity level if we want to have success.”
The Tigers finished 13-11 overall and 4-6 in the Chagrin Valley Conference Chagrin Division.
To improve upon that, the Tigers will follow a tried-and-true recipe, and Bargar hopes that leads to success in March.
“Our goals every year are to practice like champions, compete with intensity and toughness, play with togetherness, and show continued improvement,” he said. “If we do those things, we will put ourselves in a position to reach the level of success where we can compete with everyone on a nightly basis. We have a challenging schedule, with not a whole lot of returning experience, so hopefully that will benefit us down the road.”
Bargar’s squad is long and athletic, and he’ll use those attributes to his team’s advantage.
“Our chemistry is very good, and we play with a lot of unselfishness on offense,” he said. “We have the ability to get out in the open court and should create some scoring opportunities in transition. We will look to be versatile defensively, which gives us the opportunity to find what works on a nightly basis.”
Spencer Kaas and Ryan Curtiss are returning starters.
Kaas is a 6-foot-1 junior guard who averaged 7.8 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game.
“Spencer will be our primary point guard this year,” Bargar said. “He is an outstanding passer that makes everyone around him a better player. Spencer is a very versatile offensive player. He is a great finisher at the rim and can get hot from the perimeter with deep range. He is a very good defender that will normally guard the opposing team’s best player. We look for big things out of Spencer the next two years.”
Curtiss is a 6-foot-3 junior forward who earned honorable mention all-conference honors last winter after dropping 8.9 points with 4.7 rebounds per contest.
“Ryan had a very good year as a sophomore and we are looking to see him make an even bigger impact on our team this year,” Bargar said. “Ryan is quick and athletic with the ability to get to the rim and finish. He is very dynamic in the open court and is a very good mid-range shooter which makes him difficult to guard. When Ryan stays aggressive on both ends of the floor, he has a chance to be a terrific player.”
Ozzy DiFranco, Trace Williams, Aiden Beresford, and Evan Castelluccio form the rest of the Chagrin Falls projected starting lineup.
DiFranco is a 6-foot junior guard with the potential to make a big impact when healthy.
“Ozzy has been battling an injury this fall but is a very dynamic player when healthy,” Bargar said. “Ozzy is very quick with the ball and does a great job of attacking the basket. He has the ability to make a three and will only get better as the season progresses. Ozzy is a disrupter on defense and makes things happen on that end of the floor.”
Williams is a 6-foot junior guard who competes equally hard on both ends of the court.
“Trace will compete for one of the starting guard spots this season,” Bargar said. “He has a tremendous work ethic and never misses a chance to get in the gym to make himself better. Trace competes as hard as anyone on both ends of the floor. He can create his own shot off the dribble and is a good catch-and-shoot player. As he continues to get comfortable at the varsity level, we expect him to help us tremendously the next two years.”
Beresford is a 6-foot-3 forward and the lone senior on the squad.
“Aiden gained valuable experience last season as our backup post man and is in a position to be our starting five this year,” Bargar said. “He rebounds the ball well and does a very good job on the defensive end of the floor. Aiden plays with a lot of energy; he is a smart player, and he passes very well–all skills that we hope to utilize this year. As he continues to get more comfortable around the basket, we believe he will have a solid year for us.”
Castelluccio is a 6-foot-1 junior guard who is dangerous behind the arc.
“Evan will compete for one of our starting positions this year,” Bargar said. “Evan is a steadying influence on the court. He is a very smart player, has great instincts, and doesn’t make many mistakes. Evan is a good 3-point shooter and a very good passer. Defensively, he does a good job of picking up his teammates when they make mistakes. The key for Evan is to stay aggressive looking for his shot. If he can do that consistently, he will help us the next two years.”
Providing depth for the Tigers are juniors Robby Mignogna, Brad Russell, Will Stinson, and Christian Trudic, and sophomores Quinn Bargar, Jacob Kay, and Harrison Horvath.
Mignogna is a 6-foot-2 forward while Russell is a 5-foot-8 guard.
“Robby will compete for a spot in our rotation at the four-five spot this year. He has a really good skill set for his position with the ability to score and he is a terrific rebounder. He does a good job around the basket, can step out and shoot a jumper, and can take his man off the dribble. Once he figures out how to compete consistently on the varsity level, Robby has a chance to really help us the next two seasons,” Bargar said. “Brad is one of our best 3-point shooters and has the opportunity to help us at a guard spot this year. Brad does a good job of moving without the ball to get himself open and can get extremely hot shooting the basketball. As he adapts to the speed and quickness at the varsity level, he can give us an added dimension that can really impact our team the next two years.”
Stinson is a 5-foot-9 guard while Trudic is a 6-foot-5 forward.
“Will is a fundamentally sound player who does a lot of things well and doesn’t make many mistakes when he’s on the court. He is smart, works hard, and is a great teammate who’s willing to do anything that is asked of him. As he gets stronger and adjusts to the physicality of a varsity game, he has the opportunity to provide depth at guard for us,” Bargar said. “Christian has made huge strides as a player since he entered our program. His length and his ability to step out and make a three gives him a unique skill set that can impact our team in a positive way. As he gets more comfortable around the rim, he will be even more versatile. If Christian continues to improve and work hard, he has the chance to help us over the next two seasons.”
Bargar is a 5-foot-8 guard, Kay is a 6-foot sophomore, and Horvath is a 6-foot-2 forward.
“Quin will be one of our first subs off the bench at the guard position this season. He can handle the ball well and is very aggressive going to the basket. Quin is also a good 3-point shooter and a tough defender. As he gains more experience with the speed of the varsity game, we expect Quin to help us over the next three years,” Coach Bargar said of his nephew. “Jacob will provide some depth for us this year at the guard spot. He is an athletic player that can shoot the three very well. He has some length defensively, which makes him a good player on that end of the court. As he gets comfortable with the varsity game, Jacob has the opportunity to play a big role for us over the next three years.
“Harrison will provide us depth inside this year. He is a high-energy player that works extremely hard on both ends of the court. Harry does a great job of running the floor in transition, he is a very good rebounder and can finish at the rim. As he continues to grow as a player, Harrison will have a positive impact on our team the next three seasons.”
Despite their relative youth, the Tigers have the potential to do big things this winter.
It all starts with defense.
“In order for us to be successful on a consistent basis, we will need to defend at a high level each game, “Bargar said. “We will need to get out in transition and get easy baskets, and that starts with getting stops on defense. On offense, we need to make sure that we execute by moving the ball and using our unselfishness to our advantage. We will also need to focus as a team on rebounding at both ends of the floor.”