Getting back to what has made Eastern successful is the philosophy being instilled by a new basketball coaching staff this season.
Eastern graduate Ethan Leist is back on the sideline as the team’s head coach and is joined by Western graduate Bryce Brewster as the varsity assistant. Scott Tomlison is the junior varsity coach and he is being assisted by Evan Ferguson.
“Our coaching staff has made it a point to try and get back to the type of basketball that has made Eastern successful in the past. That is trying to lock people up on defense and playing really hard on that end of the floor. We believe we have the personnel to do that,” Leist said.
“Our goals are to compete and build culture. We really want to focus on building higher standards and expectations that will last. The culture here has been good for a long time, and over the past few years, we’ve experienced a bit of a drop off in culture, and it’s for a number of reasons. When you move up to this conference (SOC II), it really takes a little bit of time to establish or reestablish your culture.”
The team has just two seniors on the roster including four-year varsity starter Neil Leist and post player KJ Reinsmith. Junior guards Jace White and Teagan Werner, along with sophomore guard Tucker Leist, are the other players on the roster with varsity experience.
Neil has a lot of experience, having started four years and has been a big part of the program his entire career. KJ gives us a lot of size inside, which changes the way we play when he is on the floor, which is a good thing for us. Neil has more experience playing. They are both extremely important to what we are doing,” Leist said
“Jace White and Teagan Werner played varsity last year. They both play very hard and take a lot of pride in playing with a lot of energy. As a coach, that’s a really encouraging thing to have on your team. Both of them will be very important to what we do.”
Tucker Leist will be moving into the point guard position for the Eagles.
“Tucker has a lot to learn. We believe that he has the tools to play that position well,” said Leist. “If you look at our guards, we have some really scrappy guards who play hard with Jace, Teagan and Tucker. That’s something we want to build on.”
On the inside, Reinsmith won’t be the only post player taking the floor for the Eagles.
“This might be one of the biggest teams we’ve had overall. KJ has the most varsity experience. Dylan Morton, who did not play last year, has great size. He will really contribute for us as well,” Leist said.
“We have freshman Brewer Tomlison. He’s a really good athlete, very strong and really skilled for a freshman. We believe he has a very high ceiling. We will get as much as we can out of him in the five spot.”
Another new player on the roster is junior TJ Richards, who transferred from neighboring Jackson High School.
“We’ve been really impressed by what we have seen from him so far. He plays very hard. He supplements what we do. He will be playing heavy minutes for us,” Leist said. “We have multiple guys who we feel by the end of the year could be making significant contributions for us, particularly our sophomore group. I feel like we have an opportunity to build depth. We have four or five guys who will compete to earn some minutes.”
Two sophomores who will look for minutes are Wyatt Richardson and Sherman Salisbury. Dalton Southworth can also provide some depth in the post for the team.
Two freshmen, Aiden Werner and Hayden Reinsmith, complete the roster.
“Aiden Werner, like Brewer, has a lot of potential. He has come up through playing the point guard position. He’s very athletic and a good scorer. By the end of this year or the next year, or even the next year, he could be mixing in to play point guard,” Leist saud. “Hayden is a good athlete who can do a little bit of everything. He adds to our talented freshman group that we can develop.”
Leist is excited about his coaching staff, which represents varying backgrounds, schools and coaches.
“Bryce Brewster and I played against each other in high school. I always had a lot of respect for him. I called him when I thought about applying for this job. He wasn’t sure it was going to work out. Everything fell into place and he’s teaching here,” Leist said.
“Bryce played for a really good coach, Kyle Miller, and Bryce can take what he learned from Kyle and bring it here. We are making Bryce a big part of what we do. We work closely together. I couldn’t do this without him. He’s very important to what we do and I’m very thankful to have him.”
Tomlison brings plenty of coaching experience to the junior varsity team.
“Scott has coached junior high basketball for a long time. He played basketball and football in college. I felt it was important that he and I work together, especially at a small school where it is important that we are able and willing to share kids. With his basketball knowledge, being able to have the head football coach with us was a good bonus. Scott is very detail driven and motivated. He wants to be successful as badly as any of us do,” Leist said.
“Evan Ferguson played at both Piketon and Waverly. Evan played with a lot of talented players and was on some very successful teams at both schools. Pike County is well represented on our staff. We are able to take a lot of recent history from Pike County basketball. Evan has a lot of energy. The kids really like him.”
Leist also plans to take what he learned from his coaches.
“I played for two really good coaches here, PJ Fitch and Tom Barrick, who both did a very excellent job of establishing a good culture here,” Leist said. “I feel that I can take a little bit of what I learned from both of them, as well as playing for a really good coach in college at Cedarville Pat Estepp, and implement some of that stuff into our everyday practices and what we teach to the kids.”
According to Leist, all of the coaches are on the same page about rebuilding the culture.
“As a staff, we told the guys we will do everything we can to put them in the right position to be successful. We ask them to show up every day, be willing to work hard and be coachable,” Leist said. “We feel very excited about the kids that we have here and their willingness to do that.”