GIBSON CITY -- To say that Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley High School's varsity boys basketball team looks different this year might be an understatement.
After going 33-3 and finishing third in the IHSA Class 2A state tournament last year, the Falcons said goodbye to nine seniors. Eight of them signed letters of intent to participate in collegiate athletics, including Ryland Holt and Connor Birky, who are playing basketball at Minnesota State-Mankato and Hesston College, respectively, and Division-I football players Bryce Barnes and Ben Freehill.
"We did graduate a lot," GCMS head coach Ryan Tompkins said. "Those guys did a lot for the program."
Seven players on GCMS's varsity roster played on the varsity team last year -- Tanner Cribbett, Cade Elliott, Nick Culler, Spencer Meenen, Jordan Blake, Jordan Lee and Alex Meece, all of whom are seniors. Senior Nathan Daughenbaugh joins the varsity squad this year as well.
"We had a lot of seniors, but we had a lot of juniors, too," Tompkins said. "The guys are really starting to come into their own and grow as a group. That's been the best part of our preseason so far. We're excited about our guys. We're excited about the progress we have made and what we're going to continue to get done."
Two of their seniors were held out of practice on Thursday as Blake was out with an injury and Elliott was out with illness.
"We're hopeful that both of those guys can get back and get ready and be as close to 100 percent as they can at some point this season," Tompkins said. "We've got some bumps and bruised and some guys under the weather, which is natural."
The Falcons' junior varsity team went 15-5 last year. Juniors Tristan Roesch, Braden Roesch, Ethan Garard, Nathan Kallal and Alex Minion were on that team and are now on the varsity squad.
"They had a really good year. We had an exciting season from top to bottom last year in our program," Tompkins said. "We're looking to continue to have those guys get better. We talk about how it's about next practice and next game. We're going to be still figuring out some things. We have a lot of minutes that graduated, so we're still trying to figure some of those things out, but guys are starting to figure it out and continuing to work hard, and that's what has to continue to happen."
The Falcons' two tallest players are Braden Roesch and Meenen, who each stand at 6-foot-2, 160 pounds. Blake stands at 6-foot-1.
"We're a little bit smaller than we have been, so we're doing some different things. We have some versatile players," Tompkins said. "We have some players who have shown that they can play on the perimeter and then do some things with their back to the basket, and vice versa.
"We have some length. We have some players who have some good stretch and can use athletic ability, combined with that length, to make them a threat on both ends on the floor, hopefully."
Blake also stands at a weight of 250 while Meece, who is listed as a center on the varsity roster, stands at 6-foot-0, 260 pounds, and Jordan Lee stands at 5-10, 225 pounds.
"We have some strength," Tompkins said. "I think we have a good balance. We have a lot of guys with similar skill set and a similar mindset, which hopefully bodes well for us."
The Falcons will put their length and strength to the test as they host the GCMS Thanksgiving Tournament, which, according to Illinois Basketball Coaches Association records, stands as the second-longest Thanksgiving tournament still going on in Illinois. A tournament in Quincy started in 1971, and GCMS's tourney started in 1972.
"We're excited about that," Tompkins said.
The Falcons will start tourney play against Armstrong-Potomac at 8 p.m. Monday.
"Their basketball tradition has been very good for them over there for a long period," Tompkins said.
At 8 p.m. Tuesday, GCMS will face Warrensburg-Latham, which was in a different pool last year -- whereas this year, both teams are in the Black Pool.
"They're a very storied program," Tompkins said.
Between Warrensburg-Latham coach Vic Binkley and Eureka coach Tim Meiss, whose team is playing in the tournament's Red Pool, the two coaches are bringing about 1,300 wins with them.
"They're a couple of very good programs with very good coaches," Tompkins said.
The Falcons will finish pool play by playing Iroquois West at 5:30 p.m. Friday before playing the following Saturday at a time, and against an opponent, to be named later. Zach Monk is entering his third year as the Raiders' head coach.
"I think Iroquois West is really excited about their guys, too. They've had a lot of success in middle school in the last couple of years," Tompkins said. "We're starting to see things kind of turn for (Monk)."
Along with its third-place finish at the 2A state tournament last year, GCMS is the two-time defending Heart of Illinois Conference regular-season champion and won the HOIC Tournament last year.
The Falcons will make their HOIC debut this year at Flanagan-Cornell on Friday, Dec. 6, before hosting Tri-Valley, who is led by first-year head coach Todd Kagel, on Tuesday, Dec. 10.
"Flanagan's always gritty," Tompkins said. "It's one of the toughest places to play."
El Paso-Gridley will visit GCMS on Jan. 14 before Fieldcrest hosts the Falcons on Feb. 4.
"Those teams are probably what we're looking at as two of the top teams in the league," Tompkins said.
The Falcons will host Tremont on Jan. 10 before traveling to Colfax to take on Ridgeview on Feb. 7.
"Tremont's going to be really good," Tompkins said. "Ridgeview's going to be very good. There's a lot of good basketball."
On Feb. 18, GCMS will host LeRoy.
"LeRoy was young last year and brings a lot of guys back," Tompkins said. "There are no holes in the league. There are a lot of good basketball teams you've got to be ready for every day."
The Falcons' nonconference schedule will include a contest at Paxton-Buckley-Loda on Tuesday, Dec. 17.
"We know they've got a very good group," Tompkins said. "Our nonconference (schedule) is very tough."
On Jan. 28, GCMS will host Cissna Park. Last year, the Falcons beat the Timberwolves in overtime during the regular season before Cissna Park placed second in the Class 1A state tournament.
"That was a big game last year," Tompkins said. "That was an exciting one. Both teams are kind of in a similar mode. They've got a lot of new players. At that time of the year, it'll be exciting to see where both programs are at."
GCMS VARSITY ROSTER
No. Player Yr. Pos. Ht. Wt.
2 Tristan Roesch Jr. G 5-11 150
3 Tanner Cribbett Sr. G 6-0 150
4 Cade Elliott Sr. G 6-0 170
5 Braden Roesch Jr. F 6-2 160
11 Nick Culler Sr. F 6-0 175
13 Nathan Daughenbaugh Sr. F 6-0 175
15 Ethan Garard Jr. G 6-0 165
20 Spencer Meenen Sr. F 6-2 160
21 Nathan Kallal Jr. G 5-10 170
24 Alex Minion Jr. F 6-2 185
25 Jordan Blake Sr. F 6-1 250
32 Jordan Lee Sr. F 5-10 225
55 Alex Meece Sr. C 6-0 260
Head coach — Ryan Tompkins
Assistant coaches — A.J. Richard, Robby Dinkins, Mike Schwenk
GCMS JV ROSTER
No. Player Yr. Pos. Ht. Wt.
2 Zander Wier So. G 5-10 165
3 Awstace Grauer Sr. F 5-11 170
11 Jaden Recker So. G 5-10 145
15 Hunter Brewer So. F 5-9 170
20 Jake Zumwalt So. G 5-5 160
23 Austin Elliott So. G 5-11 155
24 Jack Schultz So. F 5-10 175
Head coach — Robby Dinkins
GCMS FRESHMAN ROSTER
No. Player Yr. Pos. Ht. Wt.
2 Colin Bane Fr. G 5-4 135
3 Seth Kollross Fr. G 5-8 130
4 Nick Giroux Fr. G 5-4 110
5 Seth Barnes Fr. G 5-8 150
11 Zach Barnes Fr. G 5-7 115
15 Connor Ray Fr. F 6-0 140
20 Chase Minion Fr. G 5-7 135
21 Kellan Fanson Fr. F 5-10 160
24 Ty Harden Fr. F 5-11 155
25 Austin Corry Fr. F 6-2 160
50 Jermaine Mays Fr. C 6-1 235
Head coach — Mike Schwenk