HOWARD — It’s been a season of growing for the East Knox High School boys basketball team. The team started the season with a new coach and little returning senior leadership, but despite the obstacles, the team has rallied together and put together a season of which it can be proud.
The team has had to learn on the fly all season, and the tests they faced have been passed with flying colors. There are still games to be played and many minutes left in the season, but the future of the East Knox team has a solid foundation on which to build for next season.
“It’s exciting knowing we have seven players from this team coming back next year,” said East Knox head coach Don McDaniel. “The two seniors [that graduate] we will miss dearly; they have given us tremendous leadership this year. This season is far from over and we still have a lot of basketball to play, but I can say I am very excited about what we are bringing back next year.”
A key piece of the current and future success for East Knox is junior post player Luke Branstool. The team’s offensive and defensive leader, Branstool has provided much of the Bulldogs scoring this season. He is the type of player that opposing teams have to game plan around, and he can change the tempo of a game in a matter of minutes.
“Luke is a very important part of the team,” said McDaniel. “He is one-tenth of the team, though, and all 10 of the kids are important.
“It’s obviously fun to have a guy on our team that can score. My philosophy on basketball is to get the ball down low and inside. We want to force the ball inside and force the other team to foul. That hurts a team more than anything, to give up a layup and a foul. It’s very fun having someone like that on our team.”
Branstool is averaging 15 points a game this season, and shooting better than 55 percent from the field. He also leads the team in rebounds (10.2 per game), and is second in the area.
“We have made a lot of improvements since last year,” said Branstool. “We would have liked to win a lot more games than we have, and we felt like we should have. We have been in just about every game and have competed with everyone in the league.”
Branstool knows he is capable of more than he has shown so far this season and in his East Knox career. He has devoted countless hours to improving his ability on and off the basketball court, and his hopes for the future — for himself and his team — are high.
“I am doing all right this year, but I know I could be doing a lot better,” said Branstool. “I know I can provide a lot more for this team. I feel like I haven’t shown what I can actually do. I need to be the guy getting the rebounds, scoring and playing great defense. This is what I work for; I want people to rely on me.”
Branstool has become the defacto offensive leader despite being only a junior. That bodes well for future Bulldog success; having a more mature and powerful Branstool in the fold for next year can only be good news.
“It’s been fun watching Luke develop,” said McDaniel. “He obviously has a lot of work to do to get to the point where we want to be. He has done a real good job and works very hard.”
With Branstool building on another great season, and seven players from this year’s team coming back next season, East Knox plans on being a force in the Mid-Buckeye Conference for the remainder of the season and in the future.