Jim Stergar is back, and bigger than ever.
Well, the former Billings Senior boys basketball coach is the same size he’s always been. But as he begins his first season as the head coach at Billings Central, Stergar is blessed with size that he rarely had in nine seasons at Senior.
Six-foot-eight center Daniel Meyer and fellow senior Dylan Hanser, who stands 6-5, will form a 1-2 punch in the post that Stergar is excited about, to say the least.
“It’s going to be different,” said Stergar, who was an assistant under Shel Hanser at Central last year after going 115-87 in nine seasons at Senior. “Having kids that can be potentially dominant post players is a luxury I didn’t always have at Senior. I’m going to take advantage of it as much as I can.”
The Rams, who went 15-9 last season and finished third at the State A tournament, enter the basketball season on a high after going undefeated and winning the school’s first Class A football championship since 2007.
Many of the key players from that dominant football team will be leading the Rams on the hardcourt. Quarterback Jacob Stanton will quarterback the basketball team as the point guard after playing shooting guard/small forward for the past two seasons.
“It’s a new role for him, and he’s looking forward to it,” Stergar said of the 6-3 Stanton. “He’s a leader by example … he’s just a kid who knows how to win and he has the respect of his teammates and his peers.”
Stanton will be joined in the backcourt by seniors Blayne Sandau, Riley Nichols, Garrett Flaming and Connor Cerkovnik. Ian Byorth, a 6-3 senior who Stergar calls “an ultimate team player and the most fundamentally sound kid we have,” will be a key contributor both under the basket and from the perimeter.
Stergar added that Sandau has the potential to be the Rams’ primary threat from the perimeter.
“Blayne can really shoot it, and he’s got that scorer’s mentality of not worrying about his misses,” said Stergar. “I really want Blayne to take over the two-guard role and be the guy that gives us inside-outside balance.”
Meyer and Hanser join Stanton as returning starters, and Stergar likes the experience they bring as third-year varsity players.
“They should be dominant this year,” he said. “Daniel just keeps getting better every day as he learns to let the game come to him and not force things. He’s a beast around the basket.
“Dylan is very athletic and long, and a great jumper. There are some strong post players in the Eastern A this year, and Daniel and Dylan will be right up there with any of them.”
The Eastern A coaches picked Central and Laurel as co-favorites in their preseason poll, and both would love to make the short trip to the State A tournament at Rimrock Auto Arena.
“The goal is to get to state and be playing our best basketball when we get there,” said Stergar. “It won’t be easy. The Eastern A is more balanced than it was last year … Laurel is very good again, and Miles City, Glendive, Sidney and Hardin all have good young kids that played a lot last year.
“For us to get where we want to go, we have to be the hardest working team on the floor every night, and be mentally and physically tougher than the other team. I think we can do that.”