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The official student news of Normal Community High School


The official student news of Normal Community High School


The official student news of Normal Community High School


‘Big shoes to fill’: Ironmen basketball season preview

Replacing the ’21-22 season’s seven graduates will be a tall order for the Ironmen basketball team
Inkspot Staff
The ’22-23 Ironmen basketball roster has big shoes to fill to replace last season’s standout seniors.

The Ironmen basketball lineup will look significantly different from last year’s when the 2022-23 season opens with the Intercity Tournament matchup against U-High on Nov. 21.

The program graduated seven of its 12-man roster, including the entire starting lineup.

Most notably absent will be the combination of Zach Cleveland and Trey Redd. 

Cleveland and Redd helped lead Community to a 33-2 record last year, earning the Intercity title, winning the State Farm Holiday Classic and a Regional Championship.

Replacing the 6’7” Cleveland, now playing for Liberty University, and 5’10” small guard Redd will be a tall order for the Ironmen.  

Cleveland, a four-year varsity starter for the Ironmen, finished his high school career scoring 1342 points, fourth all-time for the Iron, and averaging 20.5 points a game his senior season. 

Cleveland’s speed and height are a combination that will be a challenge to replace, said the Ironmen’s veteran head coach Mr. Dave Witzig.

“It’s gonna be tough because Zach was unique,” Witzig said. 

“6’7” guys that could run [and are] fast,” Witzig said, are hard to come by. 

Cleveland’s combination of height and speed helped set an Ironmen record — in Witzig’s 23 prior seasons as head coach, the most dunks an Ironmen roster ever recorded was 12. 

Last year, they had more than 85. 

Majority of which Cleveland recorded. 

Replacing Cleveland, Witzig said, will be “a team effort.” 

Cleveland led the Ironmen in minutes played, offensive and defensive rebounding, blocks and scoring last season. 

Cleveland’s scoring opportunities often came off assists from Trey Redd, now a Maryville University Saint. 

Redd is 2nd all-time among the Ironmen in assists, tallying 390 last season. 

Redd was 8th on that list the year prior with 256. 

“Trey had an unbelievable career,” Witzig said. “He took care of the ball for us. [It’s] really going to be tough to fill his shoes.”

The loss of Cleveland’s fast-break and dunking ability and Redd’s speed and ball control, Witzig said, means the Ironmen will play a slightly different style of basketball compared to last year. 

Losing the quickness of graduates Crofton Perry and Famious French, who played in all 35 games for the Ironmen last season, shifts how the team will play in transition. 

“We may not be able to press [offensively] as much because of [losing] Zach, Trey, Crofton, and Famious,” Witzig said. 

Defensively, the Ironmen will be without last season’s starting center Tyler Dwinal, who broke the school single-season record last year for charges with 30.  

Dwinal’s play “made it really hard physically to come into the paint,” Witzig said.

Zach won’t be the only Cleveland not suiting up for the Ironmen this season after junior Noah Cleveland, a key player off the bench, decided not to continue his basketball career.  

“He’s a really good basketball player,” Witzig said. “We were bummed that he made that decision, but he’s doing what he thinks is best for him right now.” 

Noah, an Illinois State University recruit, played in 29 games as a sophomore for the Ironmen.

Ironmen fans will see some returning faces when the team tips off at the Shirk Center this season. 

Among the returners are juniors 6’8” Jaheem Webber and 6’4” combo guard Braylon Roman.

Witzig is looking to Webber, Roman and this season’s four seniors “to step up and lead the program.” 

Webber and Roman are both Division I prospects, drawing the attention of college coaches around the midwest. 

Roman scored 170 points and recorded 24 steals for the Iron last season in 540 minutes of action. 

Webber, who played in all but one of the Iron’s games last season, is a good “shot blocker,” Witzig said, who split time with Dwinal.

Webber, last season, contributed 91 rebounds to the team and recorded 25 blocks, five behind Zach Cleveland’s team-best, in 322 minutes of play. 

Senior Brady Starkey, Witzig said, is expected to see increased playing time.

Starkey is a “great shooter,” who “can really shoot the three,” Witzig said.

The coach said that was a talent the team didn’t really need last year, as Starkey saw 104 minutes of court time. 

“Our guys were getting so many other shots,” Witzig said. 

The Iron will lean on Starkey’s ability beyond the arc this season. 

“That’s something that we know is going to be needed,” Witzig said, “because teams are going to be double-teaming Jaheem a lot. So there are going to be open opportunities for threes.” 

Ahead of the 2022-23 season, Witzig said, “There are going to be some ups and downs, and no one knows how it’s all going to turn out.” 

There will be “times where you don’t really know what you’re missing until they’re gone,” the coach said. But heading into the season with this squad, Witzig said, he is “excited to go into battle with them.”

Community opens the season defending their Intercity Championship against the Pioneers at Illinois Wesleyan’s Shirk Center on Nov. 21.

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About the Contributors
Giana Rawlings, Staff Writer
Giana Rawlings is a junior at Normal Community High School and participates in basketball, Best Buddies, I-Club and Freshmen Mentoring Program.  This is her first year working with the Inkspot, and she is a staff writer.  In my free time, I like to shop until I drop and hangout with friends. My all-time dream is to travel the world and experience different cultures. A slogan to live by is "don't put the key to your happiness in someone else's pocket."
Ruth Oliveros-Gallardo, Staff Writer
Ruth Oliveros-Gallardo is a senior at Normal Community High School and is on the track and field team. This is her first year working with the Inkspot, and she is staff writer. After school and on the weekends, I enjoy working and spending time with my friends. My biggest pet peeve is people chewing with their mouths open. I am most comfortable when I am with my sisters or by myself.
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