For the first time since the 1998-99 season, the Hillsboro boys basketball team is ranked in the Associated Press poll. The Indians, currently 14-2 and riding a 10-game winning streak, jumped into the Division II poll this week tied at No. 14 with Logan Elm.
Coach Miles Burton is in just his second year at the helm of the program. Last season he inherited a team with just two senior and they finished 9-14. This year the team has nine seniors.
Even though the team’s success may seem out of nowhere, prior to the season the Indians had some lofty goals that included having a winning record, to win a conference championship, which is still possible, and then to win a sectional championship. Hillsboro has already guaranteed itself a winning record, and the other two goals are still attainable.
Burton said he tries to make sure the team stays motivated and that one reason that is possible is the large number of seniors, because they don’t know when their last practice or game could be.
“They know that, we’ve talked about it often, that one of these days there’s not gonna be a practice tomorrow,” Burton said. “It really is all for an opportunity like they’ve got this year, so that keeps them pretty grounded.”
Burton gave multiple reasons for the team’s meteoric rise, but said the biggest is its commitment to the weight room and lifting.
“I’d say that’s probably the biggest athletic contribution or change that I was able to make in the short amount of time here, was that our kids lift and they lift hard and they lift year-round, so we’re significantly bigger than we were last year,” Burton said.
He also detailed other keys to bringing the team further than it’s been this century other than the weight room. Those include imitating what other winning programs do, such as making it a given all team members are eligible academically. He said the team has grade checks where none of them can have grades below a C. He said he has also spent time on skill development throughout the whole year.
However, he also said that a lot of the success is because of the student-athletes themselves.
“I mean, they’re really good athletes … and with them being as old as they are, as mature as they are, there’s been multiple games this year where they’ve just willed us across the finish line,” Burton said. “They weren’t gonna let us lose, and when you’re a bunch of seniors playing, you know, teams with sophomore and juniors, that makes a big difference.”
One of those senior leaders is point guard Ryan Scott. Burton said Scott is an elite basketball player, even comparing his skill level to a guard he coached in Louisville that is now a senior at Wake Forest. Other players he highlighted were Hunter Price and Quintin Captain, who he said he could tell were athletes as soon as he stepped into the gym.
“Once I got in the gym with them, I saw potential for fairly great success in the win column,” Burton said. “I didn’t know it would be this drastic and we’d rattle off 10-game winning streaks and put ourselves in position to control our own destiny in the league in year two, but it’s definitely part of the plan, and we’re not there yet. … I think we’re close to having the program in a pretty sustainable spot where this type of success won’t be a one-off.”
While he is happy about the season the team has had, he said its too bad most of the community can’t join the excitement in person.
“Last year I really felt like we got the community back in the gym and supporting the guys, and I hate it for the community this year that they’re not able to be in the gym night-in and night-out, because I’m sure it’d be an awesome atmosphere,” Burton said. “But, the reason I brought it up is I really appreciate you doing this article because any time I’m on the radio or we have any sort of article or anything, it kind of blows up because the whole community’s kind of craving an opportunity to have something to read about.”
Reach Jacob Clary at 937-402-2522.