Dent has a tall order in leading Eagles to playoffs
Now with three of the mainstay players on those teams graduated— all-state player Dominique Messer, Toby Sanders and Jacob Willingham, and their third head coach in as many seasons, the Eagles will have to mix things up a bit to continued that success.
MHS alumni Jacob Dent, 27, takes over the reigns at Milano in his first high school head coaching hoops job. He takes over for Brad Jones, who juggled the head coaching job and secondary principal job last season. He is now strictly handling administrative duties.
Jones came in last year when Robbie Robinson, who had been head coach for six years, left for Rotan.
Dent, a 2005 Milano High School graduate, coached in Normangee and Gause before getting the Milano job.
RETURNING TALENT, NEWCOMERS—Milano returns two starters from last year’s regional finalist squad. Seniors David Jentsch and Jordan Millar will be the Eagles’ leaders this season. Both were first team all-district picks last season.
Jentsch and Millar have also both been on the Eagles varsity squad since they were sophomores and were honorable mention all-district selections that season.
Also returning from last year’s roster are juniors Jonathon Reyes and Efrain Flores. Both served as reserves last season and were honorable mention all- district selections.
Newcomers Travis Gage and Treyton Steinbecker, both juniors, moved up from the JV last season and are now starters on the varsity level. Move-in senior Nick Bonorden also looks to be a key factor this season.
Also on the varsity roster are juniors Derek Walton and Makenan Hairston.
TOUGH LOSSES—It will be hard to replace the graduated seniors. The 6-4 Messer, an allstate selection and district defensive MVP last season. Sanders and Willingham were both first team all-district picks last year.
Milano will lack the height it did under the basket with Messer’s absence, but Dent said
“The biggest difference (from last season) is the team’s overall physical size and varsity experience,” Dent said. “We just have to focus on improving our skills daily.”
Despite that lack of size, Dent says that this season they Eagles are still being aggressive on the boards, a team strength.
“Our rebounding has been solid,” he said.
With Milano having just two starters and two reserves coming back is a bit challenging.
“We are lacking varsity experience and learning a new system. I hope for us to continually improve throughout the season,” Dent said. “We are going to have to be patience and persistent.”
He added that with the new system, the team is working hard and are willing to work each day.
“So far they’ve been working hard and have been very coachable. We’re not where we want to be, but everyday we continue to get better,” Dent said. “Our lack of experience and speed of the game has cause too many turnovers, but we’ve been getting better every game. The kids are learning their roles and we’ll be ready by district.”
EXPERIENCED ASSISTANTS— Although this is Dent’s first high school coaching gig, his two assistants have some experience.
Coach Dusty Loewe has “come out of retirement” so to speak after several years in the coaching field as an assistant in Milano this season.
He has 34 years of basketball coaching experience, 33 as a head coach. Loewe’s career record is 498-446.
He also had coaching stops at Blooming Grove, Palestine Westwood, Rice Consolidated, Gonzales, Caldwell and Taylor.
“Coach Loewe is great person and coach. I couldn’t have asked for better person to learn from. He is very enthusiastic and knowledgeable. The more I’m around him the better coach I’ll be,” Dent said.
John Hughes is also helping out with the boys program this year. He was an assistant with the boys last season and with the girls the year before that.
DISTRICT OUTLOOK— Milano will have a tall order when it comes to district play this season. District 25A-I includes No. 1 state ranked Mumford, Snook, Somerville, Burton and Iola. But the Eagles are looking to get back to the postseason again.
“Are goals is to make the playoffs,” Dent said. “We are going to play hard, play smart and play together.”
Milano and Mumford has battled it out the last two seasons, meeting each other both years in the regional finals. T he Mustangs have won both of those match-ups, eventually making it to the state title game each season. Mumford has lost both of those championship games.
“Mumford is picked first (in district) and will always be a tough test. Snook has one of the best players in the district and they’re picked second. I think we’ll battle for the third spot with the others in our district.”