By Kyle Daubs

Mattoon coach Ryan Ghere (above) enjoyed his long layoff, but he’s ready to get back to work. 

It is a rare respite for someone who coaches both boys and girls soccer plus boys basketball.

But Ghere hasn’t coached a live game since Mattoon’s boys basketball team completed its 12-18 season last March since COVID-19 canceled the 2020 girls soccer season and delayed both soccer schedules this academic year.

But it’s now going to be an exceptionally busy time for Ghere. 

But, Ghere says, he gets more done when he is busy. 

“Excited for the kids, ready to be back,” said Ghere, entering his fourth season with a 42-44 overall record. “The layoff was nice. I haven’t had something like that in a long time, but I’m glad to be busy again. We will be as ready as we can be after basically going from nothing at all to jumping straight into practices for seven days. We get thrown into the fire right away with our first game against Effingham.”

After securing its second winning season since the 1991-1992 season, last year’s squad finished six games below .500 and fell in the regional semifinals

The Green Wave lost starters Dalton Compton and Josiah Morton to graduation. Compton was the team’s second-leading scorer at 12.7 points per game.

“We’re going to jump right in and go from there,” said Ghere. “We are going to have to shoot the ball well. Losing Josiah and Dalton, that’s going to hurt because they could shoot the ball well.” 

However, the team kept two integral pieces from last year’s squad in Cam’Ron Thomas and Sam Bradbury. 

Thomas was the team’s leading scorer at 14.5 points per game while Bradbury was the team’s lone All-Apollo selection. The 6-foot-8 junior set a school record for field-goal percentage by making 76.44% of his shots. He finished 133 of 174 from the field, breaking a record that had stood since 1971. He contributed 9.8 points and 5.1 rebounds last season. 

“Cam’Ron led the team in scoring last year, so it’s great to have him back,” said Ghere. “Sam was our leading rebounder and he’s going to be a third-year starter as a big kid in the middle. We have a solid core to work with those two. Then you throw around a couple of others like Jaylin Middleton, who has improved. He’s about 6-foot-5 and improved his shooting. He’ll be a nice inside, outside player.”

Meade Johnson, a former starting guard for the Green Wave, opted to not come out. Johnson missed much of last season after suffering an injury during the Christmas Holiday Tournament in Effingham. Mason Wright and Alex Yardley also graduated. 

Ghere has turned to the junior varsity team from last season to find reinforcements. That includes Cooper Bergstrom, who is expected to be the team’s starting point guard. Pierce Farmer and Maliek Carter-Smith will also see big minutes. 

“Guys like Pierce, Cooper, and Maliek are going to have to step up and shoot the 3 well,” said Ghere. “We have one of the best big men in the conference with Sam but our perimeter guys are going to have to go with him.”

Mattoon will live-stream its games. The main drawback of not having as many fans will certainly be losing Team Massive, the student cheering section.

“You see the college games and nobody is there and it’s the bench that creates the energy,” said Ghere. “Those guys are active and into the game. Coaching a basketball game with just 50 people in the stands is going to be a surreal experience for everybody. The biggest disappointment is going to be not playing in front of Team Massive, but we are glad to play regardless.”

Mattoon finished 3-9 in the Apollo last season.

For now, their entire schedule is conference games. After Effingham on Tuesday, the schedule doesn’t get any easier with Mahomet-Seymour at home and a road game at Lincoln next week. 

“I think it’s just going to come down to just playing the game,” said Ghere. “You want to win but we are going to want to show improvement quickly. The main issue that I think everyone will have to get over is finding consistency and creating your energy.”

2021 Schedule

02/02/2021Tuevs. Effingham7:30 PM
02/05/2021Frivs. Mahomet Seymour7:30 PM
02/09/2021Tue@ Lincoln 7:30 PM
02/12/2021Frivs. Mt Zion7:30 PM
02/13/2021Sat@ Taylorville4:30 PM
02/16/2021Tuevs. Teutopolis7:30 PM
02/19/2021Frivs. Charleston7:30 PM
02/23/2021Tue@ Mahomet Seymour7:30 PM
02/26/2021Fri@ Teutopolis7:30 PM
02/27/2021Sat@ Charleston4:30 PM
03/02/2021Tuevs. Lincoln7:30 PM
03/05/2021Fri@ Mt Zion7:30 PM
03/09/2021Tuevs. Taylorville7:30 PM
03/12/2021Fri@ Effingham7:30 PM