Monday, February 26, 2024

2023-24 Boys Basketball Preview: Independence Blue Devils

Independence hopes experience pays off as last year’s young squad returns all five starters and eight others with varsity experience.

The Blue Devils finished 4-19 last season but with a young team growing up, second-year head coach Mar Holliday is confident his team has a bright future.

“I’m very optimistic regarding my team this year,” Holliday said. “We persevered through a rough season last year and the bumps, bruises, and lessons learned will contribute to a successful 2023-2024 campaign. We put together a successful summer and are ready to compete in the (Chagrin Valley Conference).”

Last winter, the Blue Devils didn’t need a Senior Night as the roster was fully comprised of underclassmen.

This year, the Blue Devils have three seniors and a host of others with quality experience.

“We are bigger, faster, and stronger than last year,” Holliday said. “That is easy to do when you are coming off a season with zero seniors, but my guys put the time in the weight room and plyo room this summer, and we hope to see the benefits of that work on the court this season.”

Among Independence’s most experienced players is Landon Jatsek, a 6-foot-4, senior.

Last winter, Jatsek averaged 18.9 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game on his way to earning honorable mention All-Ohio and first-team All-CVC honors.

“Landon is a tremendous player who can do it all. His greatest strength is his versatility. He can score on the block or on the 3 pt line, while anchoring our defense. He led our team in charges taken last year & has emerged as a more vocal leader.

Sam Crooks, Matty Jirmasek, Rocco Ressler, and Noah Terrano also return to the starting lineup.

Crooks, a 6-foot-3 junior, averaged 16.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game. He was named second-team All-CVC.

“Sam is a special young man and player,” Holliday said. “His desire to be the best player he can be is what separates him from his peers. He has outstanding length and an ever-growing basketball IQ. He continues to be an incredible leader for our team.”

Jirmasek is a 5-foot-9 sophomore who averaged 7.2 points, 2.0 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per contest last season.

“Matty is just a flat-out baller who started every game last year as a freshman,” Holliday said. “His anticipation on defense and unselfishness on offense make him a wonderful teammate to play with. We as a team expect big things from Matty this season.”

Ressler is a 6-foot-2 junior who averaged 3.9 points and 3.9 rebounds per game while Terrano is a 6-foot junior.

“Rocco is a fantastic athlete with a motor that does not stop. He is a fantastic competitor who we expect to take a major step forward this season,” Holliday said. “Noah is a kid who put a lot of time into the development of his game this summer and he is poised to take a major leap on both sides of the ball.”

Holliday will count on seniors Joe Jirmasek and Wyatt Snyder and sophomore Steven Mlynarczyk to provide quality depth.

“Joe is one of our captains and a verbal leader of our team. His tenacity on the defensive side of the floor coupled with his ability to stretch the floor and make plays for his teammates offensively makes him an integral part of who we are as a team,” Holliday said. “Wyatt is the consummate team player who is always willing to do whatever is asked of him in order to make the team successful. His unselfishness, willingness to find the open man, and ability to stretch the floor will be important for our team’s success. Steven got a little taste of varsity action last season. He has had an outstanding summer and is ready to help us reach our team goals this season. His ability to attack the rim and defend with energy will be vital to us.”


Steve Hare
Steve Hare
Steve Hare is the Chagrin Valley Conference's Sports Information Director. He also created and publishes, an online publication dedicated to providing hyperlocal coverage to area high school athletic programs. Hare began covering high school sports for the Lake County News Herald in 1997. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.

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