Boys Basketball

Small school basketball Player of the Year exceeded expectations in Nashville

Wayne Harre knew he was walking into a good situation when he was hired to take over as the Nashville boys basketball team prior to the 2017-18 season.

The Hornets were returning several players from a team which had won 19 games the previous season, including Bryson Bultman, a 6-3 guard and “facilitator” on a team loaded with talented players.

Bultman is now 6-foot-5, stronger, faster , and the 35-3 Hornets finished a hair shy of the class 2A state championship.

“I think I improved in all areas of the games this year,’’ Bultman said last week. “Playing for Coach Harre makes you a better player. He demands a lot and he’s tough on you and he really stresses playing good defense. But he makes you a better player and he helps get you ready for the next level. I’m really glad I had the opportunity to play for him.”

The unquestioned leader on a Nashville team which was the top ranked class 2A team in the state for much of the regular season, Bultman averaged 14.6 points and led the Hornets in rebounds (230) and assists (66). Voted as the News-Democrat Class 1A-2A Player of the Year, it was Bultman, along with teammate Carson Parker, who led Nashville all the way to the state championship game, which it lost to Chicago Orr, 50-36.

“I would say that this season has exceeded what I had hoped we would do as a team this season. You always start a season with the goal of having a chance to play for the state championship. We did that,’’ Bultman said. “ It would have been great to win it.. But just getting to Peoria and the state tournament I think we reached our goal as a team.’

“I have no regrets. Getting to the state tournament is what I’ll remember the most..’’

A three-year starter, Bultman averaged 15 points per game in 2017-18 as he helped lead Nashville to a regional championship and final record of 23-8. Harre said Bultman’s maturity and knowledge of the game was a key in helping him make the transition to the boys coach.

“You can’t beat experience and he understands the game very well,” Harre said. “This season he improved his perimeter shooting, his defense was tremendous this year compared to last. I believed he improved his jumping ability. Those were crucial to him. Especially his shooting. They had to guard him tighter on perimeter.’’

Bultman was at his best in the post season.. In a 47-45 win over Gibson City in the semifinal, he scored 13 points and added seven rebounds. He then added 12 points and six rebounds in a 14-point loss to Chicago Orr in the title game.

“The semifinal was probably closer than it should have been. We missed some free throws down the stretch and they (Gibson City) were able to get back in the game,’’ Bultman said. “Against Orr, we just didn’t shoot the ball well enough. We held them to 50 points though.”

Bultman will play college basketball at McKendree University in Lebanon.

“It’s a great school and its close to home,’’ Bultman said. “I really like the coaching staff and its a place where they have a great program. I know I need to work on my defense and my quickness and handling the basketball. But I’m really looking forward to the next four years.’’