Thursday, December 7, 2023

Deep Mustangs expect to compete

Grand Valley returns four starters from last season and the Mustangs have a host of others with varsity experience.

It’s that deep and talented roster that has seventh-year head coach Justin Turk confident his squad will compete for the Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division title this season.

“We have a deep roster with a number of guys having an opportunity to see their role expand from previous years,” said Turk, who is 62-71 at the school. “We expect to put ourselves in a position to compete at the top of the league.”

The Mustangs finished last season with a 9-8 record overall and a 4-2 mark in conference play.

“We have a lot of experience coming back with a number of guys having the opportunity to contribute on any given night,” Turk said. “We will be a more balanced scoring team than in years past with anyone having the ability to have the hot hand.”

Defensively, the Mustangs will focus on dominating the glass.

“Rebounding the ball is always a priority,” Turk said. “We will rely on all five guys on the court to do their job to be successful on the boards.”

Three seniors, a junior, and a sophomore are projected to start for the Mustangs this winter.

Ethan Spencer, a 5-foot-7 senior point guard, and Hagan Hejduk, a 6-foot-2 guard/forward, both return for their fourth year in the starting lineup.

Spencer averaged six points and three assists last season on the way to earning first-team all-conference honors. Hejduk dropped in seven points and pulled down 7.5 rebounds per contest last season. He earned honorable mention all-conference honors.

“Ethan is a tremendous on-ball defender with a very high-level handle,” Turk said. “Hagan has a high basketball IQ to go along with tremendous skill, attitude, and effort. Hagan is the kind of player and leader every coach wants. We look forward to him having a very good senior year.”

Senior Caden Vatty, a 6-foot guard/forward, also started last season. He averaged five points per game.

“Caden is a player we expect will stretch the floor for us with his pure shooting stroke,” Turk said. “He will need to raise his efforts on the defensive end to be a true two-way player.”

Junior Landon Spencer and sophomore Robert Rogers round out the projected starting lineup.

Spencer, a 6-foot forward, missed last season with an injury. Rogers, a 6-foot-1 forward, provides the Mustangs with athleticism and a hard-nosed player on both ends of the court.

“Landon is another player we feel will be able to stretch the floor for us. He is a great worker with the desire to be better. Rebounding will be a priority for him,” Turk said. “Robert is an athletic player we expect to contribute on both ends of the floor. We will challenge him to be a defensive specialist and ask him to run the floor for us.”

Nate Boiarski, a 6-foot-2 junior, is a returning starter but he suffered a football injury that will sideline him for most of the season. He averaged 12 points, three rebounds, and two steals per game last season. He was named second-team All-CVC and honorable mention all-county and all-district.

“Nate was one of the top players in the CVC last year and a potential MVP candidate this year and next,” Turk said.

Senior C.J. Samsa, junior Trent Doyle, and sophomores Logan Zirzow and Kam Cottrell will provide the Mustangs with depth.

Samsa is a 5-foot-10 forward, Doyle is a 5-foot-8 guard, Zirzow is a 6-foot-3 guard/forward, and Cottrell is a 5-foot-10 guard.

“C.J. is a tough defender with a relentless motor,” Turk said. “Trent is a very good on-ball defender and will be asked to guard the opposing team’s best player at times. Logan returns to Grand Valley after playing last year at Bristol. Logan is an all-around solid player with the ability to handle the ball, shoot, and score. We look for his length to be a factor on the defensive end for us. Kam has a high IQ on both sides of the ball. He’s detail-oriented.”

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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