The Mason City boys basketball team is off to a seemingly-rocky start, but the competition is only helping them grow.
“We’ve got a lot of great guys in the locker room. We just need to figure out how to use everybody’s ability and piece it together,” senior Ben Pappas said. “Johnston is a very good basketball team, give credit to them, but I believe if we do that, we mesh everybody together, we’ll be good to go.”
Pappas leaps above a crowd of hands to grab a rebound, one of his team-high seven total in the game against Johnston. Pappas wasn’t the top scorer, but his presence provided opportunity in that starting lineup.
“I just know their game, I know what they like, what kind of shot they want, whether they want to drive the ball, pull up, where they’re going to be on the court,” Pappas said. “I think that’s just why we’ve been able to compete, but once we get to that next level we’ll be better.”
Pappas is one of the top rebounders on the team, tied with junior Jarvorius Toney for a team-high of 25 total rebounds through Friday's game. On the scoring end, Pappas averages 7.5 points per game.
He provides a sense of consistency and leadership that makes everyone else comfortable. While most players list the cliché “make it to state” goal that might seem far in advance, Pappas looks for what’s important right now and how his leadership will impact others.
“I think No. 1 goal is to probably win the most basketball games we can,” Pappas said. “But also help the other guys, younger guys out, build a foundation for next year, help them learn everything that they can. I think that’s what I want to do.”
One of those players is Jordan Brown. While Brown is a senior, he’s seeing more time on varsity this year than in the past, and in his 10-point performance against Johnston, his growth became more evident.
“Jordan has been a super talented player,” head coach Nick Trask said. “He just doesn’t have a lot of experience playing varsity basketball, so now he’s trying to grow mentally on where he fits in with the team and when he should try to take over and what his role is going to be. I foresee Jordan being the guy who gets big minutes for us, started as a starter at the beginning of the year and very well could be by the very end. He’s the kind of guy who as long as he can get part of the mental game a little bit better, he’s going to be an amazing player for us.”
Brown is self-critical, maybe even too much.
“I could’ve done better, I could’ve moved the ball better, I could’ve passed to open teammates more,” Brown said. “Just be a better player overall.”
But that’s not a bad problem to have. Trask lists him as one of the “toughest” players on the team because of his speed and aggression as he drives down the court. It’s that drive to be better that enhances his work ethic.
“I’ve been working really hard in the gym lately,” Brown said. “Just been trying to get my teammates better overall. I want to get to at least .500 this year.”
Pappas and Brown, along with Toney, senior Jake Rood and senior Ryan Smuck have played together since eighth grade, but all of them are still finding their roles on the court. Once the team learns how to mesh, then it’s only a matter of time before the wins reel in.
“I kind of think we need to play for each other a little bit more,” Pappas said. “I mean, we may not be doing that all of the time, but once we do it 100-percent of the time, we’ll be good.”