When Seymour boys basketball head coach Kirk Manns thinks about the 2022-23 season, he couldn’t think of a better example of sports revealing the true character of a team and the type of players it has.
The Owls started the season 0-6, and there were plenty of opportunities for the group to feel sorry for themselves and quit, but that wasn’t the case.
Seymour started to string together wins and closed the regular season winning six of its last eight games.
In the sectional, Seymour had New Albany on the ropes in the final minutes. The Owls finished with an overall record of 10-14.
“We talk about sports revealing character, and I thought it really did that in this situation,” Manns said. “We had a rough start. We started 0-6, and that opens up a lot of avenues for doubt, and when you’re pushing the rock uphill like we did, it makes it easier to think, ‘Is this really worth it?’ But we also had an opportunity to overcome those obstacles, and that’s what this season represented for our guys.”
The group came together one final time last week at Seymour High School to celebrate the season.
Freshman team recognition featured Mack Longmeier, Nate Fritsch, Tyson Hillian, Evan Unterseher, Traysean Hawkins, Brandon Martinez, Adan Felipe and Nolan Bartels. Fritsch won the Owl award for the freshmen.
Junior varsity team recognition featured Parker Thompson, Ty Tormoehlen, Andrew Higdon, Myles Chandler, Dylan Thompson, Ross Pumphrey, Aden Kruse, Brady Harpe, Michael Brooks, Seth Montgomery and A.J. Harrell. Harpe earned the Owl award.
Varsity team recognition featured Harpe, Landon Fritsch, Bret Perry, Brooks, Evan Smith, Charlie Longmeier, Ethan Silcox, Montgomery, Josh Rennekamp, Jaylan Johnson, Eli Meyer, Harrell, Cory Robinson and student assistant Dametreous Collins.
Harpe, Brooks, Montgomery, Harrell, Silcox, Johnson and Collins were all first-year letter winners. Robinson, Rennekamp and Smith were second-year letter winners. Meyer, Longmeier and Perry were third-year letter winners, and Landon Fritsch was the lone fourth-year letter winner.
Manns then handed out some individual player awards, starting with Longmeier winning the unsung player award.
“Charlie has been a three-year starter and oftentimes goes unnoticed because his job is to take care of the ball,” Manns said. “He’s kind of like an umpire. You don’t notice an umpire until he makes a bad call. Charlie’s value goes unnoticed. We averaged under 10 turnovers the last two years, and Charlie was a big part of that.”
The next award was the most improved player award, which went to Johnson. Johnson didn’t play much varsity his freshman year but made a big jump this past season.
“It was tough as a freshman. There were a lot of good players ahead of him, like Casey Regruth, Marcus Brooks and Andrew Levine,” Manns said. “As far as the most improved player goes, he was just getting better and better. The varsity game is a lot quicker and a lot stronger, and Jaylan had some big games for us.”
The Owls, who hang their hats on stingy defense, routinely held teams below their average points per game threshold.
Perry won defensive player of the year for Seymour, often guarding the opposition’s best perimeter player.
“Bret is a little undersized, but he’s one of your hardest workers day in and day out,” Manns said. “He enjoys playing defense, he enjoys those types of challenges and he had some very good nights defensively against some very good guys on our schedule.”
The Chairman of the Boards award, which accounts for rebounding, went to Meyer, who averaged five boards per game for Seymour.
The most valuable player award went to Landon Fritsch, who led the team in scoring at 12.6 points per game while shooting 47% from the field.
“Landon was a lot more consistent than he was a year ago. He scored in double figures 17 times this season,” Manns said. “He was that consistent scorer that we needed this year. He has been a big part of things for a long time. He became a better defender this year, too.”
Fritsch also earned all-Hoosier Hills Conference, and Johnson was HHC honorable mention.
Fritsch and Meyer were both academic all-state for Seymour, and earning scholar athlete awards were Unterseher, Brooks, Rennekamp and Fritsch.
Seymour is losing six talented seniors in Fritsch, Meyer, Longmeier, Robinson, Rennekamp and Smith.
“Charlie, Landon and Eli are three-year starters. That’s a lot of experience, a lot of games that were played in, a lot of points, a lot of rebounds and a lot of assists,” Manns said. “That’s going to take a lot to replace. You’re not only going to miss their production on the floor, but you’re also just going to miss having them around and seeing them in the locker room.
“Cory, Josh and Evan filled roles,” Manns continued. “Coming off the bench is tough, and they had to be ready night in and night out not knowing what opportunity they would get. They were great team guys.”
Of course, Seymour wants to replace the production from the seniors this past season, but Manns wants his team to focus on becoming a new version of Owls basketball because each team is different.
“Coming back, we’re looking to be this year’s team,” Manns said. “This is an opportunity for some young guys we have to step up.”
Seymour is already back in the gym, which started this week. Due to IHSAA rule, Seymour is working out two days a week, two hours per day.
They will maximize their time this spring and summer to be ready for next season.
“Spending that time in the gym and learning to be that 2023-24 basketball team,” Manns said.