By GREG MENGELT
In the past few years, Providence has had a ton of success. However, under coach Lou Lefevre, the have been without a serious rebounding presence until the past couple of seasons.
This season, the Pioneers possess arguably the best front line in Southern Indiana with seniors Dalton Duley, George Knott and Ryan Pickerrell.
As the Pioneers’ leading rebounder the past two season, including nearly 10 per game this year, Pickerrell has finally given Lefevre what he’s been missing: A beast on the boards.
“He’s the best rebounder I’ve ever had — by far,” Lefevre said. “He’s got great timing. He’s got great hands. He’s been a great rebounder for us. Up until last year, that was something we never had. We never got many second-chance points, someone who, even when we didn’t have good shooting nights, could get us baskets anyway.
“We have some other pretty good rebounders, but there have been games when he’s had 40 percent of our rebounds. He’s been terrific and a pivotal player for us.”
Lefevre hopes Pickerrell and the Providence front line, which has helped lead the Pioneers to a 10-0 start and a Class 2A No. 4 ranking, will be an advantage on Saturday against the smaller, more athletic Jeffersonville Red Devils. The Pioneers face Jeffersonville, which is 9-2 and ranked No. 12 in Class 4A, on Saturday.
“We could [have an advantage] — if we rebound well,” Lefevre said. “There are teams that don’t have a lot of size who are great rebounding teams, and [Jeff] is a very good rebounding team. Rebounding’s not just a size issue.
“But so far this year, it’s been an advantage for us, and hopefully it could be an advantage this week.”
On Wednesday, Pickerrell took the time to answer a few questions about the Pioneers’ 10-0 start, their expectations for the rest of the season, the Jeffersonville rivalry and many others in the News and Tribune’s “On the Spot” series.
QUESTION: Let’s start with last season. What was the Final 4 like and playing against eventual state champion Perry Meridian in the semi-state?
PICKERRELL: “It was unbelievable. It is one of the key things I will remember all my life. It’s one of my best memories. We had tremendous leadership in the two seniors guards we lost [Bryce Very and Colin Daly], but the two guards that have come in this year [Cory Cahalan and Nano Grantz] have replaced them well.”
Q: Coming into the season, I thought it was strange that you weren’t in the pre-season Class 2A Top 10. Did that get your attention, make you wonder what that’s about, considering you had three returning big men and five senior starters from a team that went to the Final 4 last year?
PICKERRELL: “Yeah, but it also motivated us. For us to make it that far and still be rated that low with five key returning players, it worked as motivation more than anything.”
Q: Seeing cross-town Clarksville, who you beat in the sectional last year, up at No. 6, was that added motivation?
PICKERRELL: “That definitely helped our motivation.”
Q: So you’ve beaten Clarksville twice. You’re likely to see them again in the sectional. Since you’ve beaten them twice, I assume beating them a third time in a foregone conclusion, right?
PICKERRELL: “I don’t know about that. They’re a great bunch of guys. I’m friends with a lot of them. They’re good basketball players, so we’ll have to come prepared to play them every time.”
Q: I know you guys are confident in your abilities to win games, but looking at your schedule before the season, did you see 10-0 as a possibility? Or has being unbeaten so far into the season come as a bit of a surprise?
PICKERRELL: “I knew it was a possibility, but it’s never easy. We definitely can’t have the overconfidence and swagger that we’re going to win and we don’t have to play our best every night, because we definitely do. We don’t have that kind of talent. We have to play hard and play smart every single night to win.”
Q: Let’s talk about Jeff. Are they the best team you’ve played so far this year?
PICKERRELL: “I would definitely have to say they’re probably the best. We’ve played some good teams, but I’d say, talent-wise, they’re definitely the best.”
Q: What makes them a difficult matchup?
PICKERRELL: “Just their speed and athleticism is unmatched in this area. The way they can get up on you and get into you on defense is ... not a lot of teams around here can do that.”
Q: Do you feel like you have an advantage with your size, being two or three inches taller to a man on the front line?
PICKERRELL: “We do have an advantage, but they also have an advantage being smaller and quicker. We just have to protect the ball and keep the ball from them.”
Q: I know you have a few rivals. Where does this game stack up as far as rivalries?
PICKERRELL: “It’s a huge game. We love competing against bigger schools than us.”
Q: What are your expectations going forward through the second half of the season and into the tournament?
PICKERRELL: “It’s not all about wins. It’s about getting better as a team as a whole. If we pick up some losses along the way and we’re getting better, that’s really what we’re all focused on. We’re trying to get to play our best running into sectional and from then on. That’s when we want to be our best.”
Q: What can you accomplish in the tournament? Can you get back to where you were last year? Or perhaps win another game or two in the tournament?
PICKERRELL: “Only time will tell. If we’re playing like we are right now, we will not. We’ve not been playing up to our potential at all. This team has a lot of potential and we could be really something special, but it all starts with how you prepare and how you play.”
Q: Here’s the question I’ve been wanting to ask the most. Is Coach Lefevre as hard to please as he seems to be?
PICKERRELL: “He is, but he’ll tell you when you do something right. He’ll tell you when you’re doing something wrong, as well. But that’s a good thing. He’s not the easiest going guy, but he sure knows his basketball.”
— Interview conducted by News and Tribune sports editor Greg Mengelt