Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2012, 5:36 pm

Rocks deep in interchangeable parts

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By Marc Nesseler, nesseler@qconline.com

More photos from this shoot
Photo: Gary Krambeck
Rock Island boys basketball players gather around coach Thom Sigel as they run plays during practice Monday Nov. 12, 2012.
More photos from this shoot
Photo: Gary Krambeck
Brian Richardson, left, defends against fellow player Trey Sigel during practice at the Fieldhouse Monday Nov. 12, 2012.
Math was one of Thom Sigel's favorite subjects in high school, so throwing out the topic of outliers didn't catch the Rock Island boys' basketball coach offguard.

Outliers, those numbers in a set that are beyond the norm, and come with a mathematical formula that even the biggest fans of the subject can't remember.

But, you look at the Rocks' roster and they stand out. Of the 10 returning letterwinners, eight of them are all within four inches of each other, from 5-foot-11 to 6-foot-3. The only two not in that bunch are 5-foot-6 returning junior starter C.J. Carr and his backup, 5-9 senior Trae Babers.

"It makes for some very good practices," Sigel said of the similar size differential. "We can mix up the offenses and defenses every day. All of the players are pretty interchangeable. It makes it interesting."

Of course, on the other side of that equation, looking at the upper quandrant of numbers, is that really big height numbers aren't there. The only two taller than 6-3 are 6-5 junior newcomers E.J. Williams and Austin Simmer, both 6-5.

"We lost Denzel McCauley and Marquel Beasley, and they were our top two scorers and top two rebounders," the coach said. "Plus, you can't simulate size around the basket. We played some big teams during the summer and we gradually got better and adapted. Hopefully will can continue doing that.

"The prevalent questions will be inside defending and on the board. We sold that to this team and they've been pretty scrappy."

Sigel and the Rocks feel good about what they have coming back. Tops among them is the backcourt of Carr (5.8 points and 2.3 assists per game) and Brian Richardson (8.5 ppg, 2.7 rebounds per game).

From there, you have the interchangeable factors coming into play.

Trey Sigel, a 6-1 junior who averaged 5.0 points in '11-12, and James Jones fit in at shooting guard, with Babers also very 3-capable.

The front court, at this point, could be a tandem of 6-3, 210-pound Raahsaan Brown and 6-2 Robert Johnson.

One returning starter that the Rocks will miss out of the blocks is 6-2 junior Keenan Shorter, a starter with a 3.5 scoring average last season. He had arthroscopic knee surgery during the summer and is expected to miss two to three more weeks, Sigel noted.

Shorter will be joined on the sidelines by 6-1 senior Jacobe Julien to start the season. Julien suffered a knee injury in the championship game of the Justin Sharp Shootout this past summer and Sigel doesn't expect to see him back until at least December.

"Even though we can only start five, what we really have are eight starters," said Sigel of the lineup flexibility that he could enjoy.

"I like what we have back, but we still have some questions," the coach added.

He's done the math. He likes the way it adds up.


Meet the RI Rocks

Coach: Thom Sigel (327-167 career, 200-115 in 12 years at Rocky).
Assistants: Rod Leatherman (varsity asst.), Chad Baker (head sophomore), Damon Colvin (sophomore asst.), Tony Johnson (sophomore assistant).
Returning lettermen: Srs: Brian Richardson (5-1 G), Rob Johnson (6-2 F), Trae Babers (5-9 Sr.), Raahsaan Brown (6-3 F), James Jones 6-3 G), Jacobe Julien (6-1 G), Breon Hawthorne (6-3 Sr). Jrs: C.J. Carr (5-6 G), Trey Sigel (6-1 G).
Newcomers: Jrs: Travon Aldridge (6-0 G), Marcellous Butler (5-10 G), E.J. Williams (6-5 F), Grant Myers (6-1 G).
Schedule (all games 7:30 unless noted or tournaments): Nov. 21: Richwoods, 7 p.m., RI Tourney; Nov. 23: Tilden, noon, & Aurora West, 7:30, RI Tourney; Nov. 24: Bogan, 7:30 p.m., RI Tourney; Nov. 30: at Alleman (Carver Center); Dec. 1: Minooka; Dec. 7: at UTHS; Dec. 8: Bloomington; Dec. 14: at Galesburg; Dec. 15: Assumption, 8:30 p.m., Iowa-Illinois Shootout; Dec. 26-29: State Farm Classic; Jan. 5: Sterling; Jan. 11: Moline; Jan. 12: Proviso West, 4 p.m., Naperville North Shootout; Jan. 18: at Quincy; Jan. 25: Alleman; Jan. 26: Wheaton North, 6 p.m., QC Shootout; Feb. 1: UTHS; Feb. 8: Galesburg; Feb. 9: at Aurora Central Catholic: Feb. 15: at Moline; Feb. 16: at Peoria Manual; Feb. 22: Quincy.