The search for a new basketball extended to South Carolina.

That’s where Brandon Jones heard about the boys basketball opening at Mattoon High.

While Jones might have been miles away, he’s familiar with the team Green Wave had last year and what the team will need going forward. 

Jones was officially hired in April, replacing Ryan Ghere who had guided the team since 2017.

Jones has been on the grind ever since. 

“We look just about how I would expect for being this early on,” said Jones. “We will not have the height that we had the previous season, the players are learning a new system, and have a new coach. One who has a different basketball philosophy on both offense and defense. A lot of things are being changed and it’s a learning experience for everyone. The goal is to keep advancing the program by building it in every way I can, creating a sustainable and successful culture within the program, and working to get better every day.”

The height that Jones is referring to is the loss of 6-foot-7 center Sam Bradbury, who was a second-team All-Apollo selection and is now a Division I thrower at Eastern Illinois University. Also gone are Jaylen Middleton and starting point guard Reese Bergstrom.

The Wave returns three players that started or played significant minutes from last year.

That includes:

• Blaine Powers, who will likely take over as the team’s primary ball handler.

• Christian Larson, who returns as the team’s top scoring threat after having a few games where he led the team in scoring.

• Taerick Grace, who will move from a reserve role to a forward. 

So far, the team has lost its first two games while playing St. Anthony. The Green Wave lost a tight game to Rantouol on Tuesday evening, 51-50, and then 55-28 on Wednesday.

“I think there are going to be various players that make significant contributions to this team,” said Jones. “We are learning that this is a team game and it takes all five to compete on offense and defense. At this point, we are just getting started and only time will tell who will step up for the team to be significant contributors.”

Senior forward Christian Larson is the leading scorer two games in, having scored 15 in the opener and averaging 10 points per game overall. Senior forward Taerick Grace is averaging 9.5 and senior guard Blaine Powers is at 6.5.

“We have good guard play that can run the offense most efficiently, but we will have to wait for game play to reveal the top ones,” said Jones. “My post players are versatile playing inside and out within my offense. It will be interesting to see when this all comes together and we are playing as one.”

Mattoon finished last season 14-17 overall and was 4-8 to finish sixth in the Apollo.

“I want to go out and compete with every team we play,” said Jones. “The players are looking to make Mattoon a name people recognize and respect when it comes to basketball. They want to finish among the top teams in the Apollo.”

Jordan Coleman will remain as the junior varsity coach, while Kodie Brant will again be the freshman coach. 

Coach’s Background

Jones has been coaching basketball for the last seven years. In South Carolina, he has served as a head varsity assistant and JV head coach for the past six years. For his coaching career, he coached at the South Carolina 5A, 4A, 3A, and 1A classifications. He was a part of a team that tied a school record for farthest advancement in the playoffs, two teams that set school records (two different schools), that won their 4A Region Title, that won their 1A Region Title, set a State Record in S.C.,  and made a state semifinals appearance.

“I would have to say the location, the area, community members, and school administration all played a huge role in why I wanted this position at Mattoon,” said Jones. 

22-23 MHS Roster

1Blaine PowersSrG5-10
2Austin BoyerSrG5-10
3Jackson HelmsSrF/C6-4
4Sawyer KirtsSrG6-0
5Aliia MoselySrC6-5
10Janice GardnerJrG6-0
11Bryce Jean JrG6-2
12Andrew WetzelJrG5-11
13Jordan HaughJrC5-10
14Karson RiceJrG5-10
15Madden JohnsonSoG6-0
20Christian LarsonSrF6-1
21Owen HawkinsJrF5-11
23Taerick GraceSrF6-3
24Jermaine JohnsonJrF6-0
25Sean FuentesJrF/C6-0
30 Colton SmithJrF/C6-3