Metamora High School Boys Basketball Preview

Tom Batters
Joe Kennell

All five starters on the Metamora High School boys basketball team (85-percent of the team’s scoring) graduated, and the coach bolted for Kentucky.

So, this must be a rebuilding year, right?

New coach Danny Grieves doesn’t think so.

“We want to win the conference, win our Regional and Sectional, and see what happens,” said Grieves, a Peoria native who was hired this spring after spending 14 years in Mississippi. “The bar is set high here.”

Grieves, a Peoria Central graduate who coached at Peoria Notre Dame from 1991-93, was an assistant coach at St. Stanislaus College, a Catholic residency and day school for boys in grades 7-12 in Bay St. Louis, Miss. That team won a state championship last year.

Grieves’ son, Jackson Grieves, was a sophomore point guard for that team. He will step right in to play point for the Redbirds. He scored 24 points in his first game in a Metamora uniform (a win over Minooka Nov. 21).

“He has a lot of experience,” Grieves said. “We all sit around the dinner table and talk basketball, (Grieves’ wife, Kim, a longtime high school coach, will coach at Metamora Grade School this year). “So, he has a pretty good basketball IQ.”

Senior guard Jared Dehm transferred from Richwoods, which gives Grieves another legitimate scoring threat in the backcourt. Dehm scored 21 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in the season opener Nov. 21.

“Coming from Richwoods, he knows what it’s like to guard quick, athletic players, so he will help us a lot defensively, too,” Grieves said.

The rest of the lineup is inexperienced at the varsity level, but Grieves said you wouldn’t know it by the way practices have gone so far.

“We have a lot of hard workers,” he said. “I like what I’ve seen. These kids can play.”

Joe Kennell, a sophomore who saw limited time at the varsity level last year, will play at the No. 2 guard spot. Senior forward Mitchell Billimack and senior center Ben Friday are the only other players with varsity experience.

“Ben can be a dominant post player (he’s 6’6”). “He can hit that short jumper, or drive hard to the glass, Grieves said. “Mitchell, being a soccer player, has great footwork. He can shoot, or penetrate and create a shot for somebody else.”

Grieves said 6’5” junior center Tien Chen is ready to “take a big step forward.”

“He hit the weights this summer. He’s a lot stronger,” Grieves said. “You put him next to Ben and you have a pretty good tandem in the paint.”

Grieves said he is still trying to come up with a set rotation, but other playing time include: juniors Mike Martin, David Gualandri, Hunter Wellborn, and Alex Garber, and sophomores Grant Billimack and Danny Ausman.

“We like to play up tempo on both ends,” he said. “We’ll play fast, and we’ll play hard. We have the players who can play that style. I can’t wait to get going. This is a great group of kids.”

• Metamora beat Chicago Rowe-Clark 83-37 Friday at the dean Riley Tournament in Ottawa. On Saturday, the Redbirds beat Elkhart (Ind.) 62-28. Chen had a team-high 17 points.

• Metamora plays at Galesburg Saturday.