WAPAKONETA – The Western Buckeye League boys basketball season opens this Friday and as always it is expected to be another competitive year.
Certainly, Ottawa-Glandorf and Shawnee are the two front runners, however, there is always teams ready to make things interesting and one of those squads may be Wapakoneta.
Under first-year head coach Trey Elchert, the Redskins have opened this season with 4-0 record after posting wins against Delphos Jefferson, Indian Lake, Bellefontaine and Marion Local.
Against the Flyers last Friday, the Redskins put up a big 45-38 victory where a a well-balanced offensive attack and some tenacious defense carried Wapakoneta to the win.
Elchert said these are two factors that have been instrumental in the Redskins opening the year with four consecutive victories.
“We are off to a pretty solid start and I think that is for a number of reasons,” Elchert said. “Offensively we have had great balance in our scoring we have had four guys that are basically between 10 and 15 points per game. It has been very balanced on that side of the floor which has helped.
“Defensively with each passing game we have started to find a little more of our identity of who we are. I thought our last game against Marion last Friday was by far the best we have competed 32 minutes on the defensive end of the floor so I feel we are just a team who game by game are starting to find our identity on both on the offensive and defensive side of the floor.”
Like all basketball coaches, Elchert did not have the luxury of extra practice during the off season this year to work with the team during the summer, however, the time he did spend with them helped him get to understand his players on a more personal level and their expectation.
“Going back to the summer we had more of an opportunity to work on an individual setting instead of a lot of those team camps and things you typically get to do,” Elchert said. “Fortunately for me as a first year coach and our coaching staff we were able to work with the kids in the summer in an individual skill setting type of environment which was really beneficial towards building a relationship with the kids because those are more individualized settings as opposed to having 20 or 30 guys on the floor at a time.”
Elchert added this is an ongoing process of where the players and coaches build up chemistry and trust as both coaches and players.
One of the most difficult things Elchert admits is trying to identify roles for the players and how he expects them to perform in his system.
“With me coming in you kind of have a general idea of who’s who and what their roles have been in the past but until you kind of actually get out there and see them playing against another opponent it is kind of hard to figure out who is going to fit where schematically with things,” Elchert said. “The kids were the same way. I talked to a number of them early in the year with some of our scrimmages and stuff and I could tell, especially in the offensive set, they weren’t real comfortable with some of the things we were trying to do.”
But as the team entered the season and they have posted wins and been successful, Elchert said he feels the players are responding in a positive matter and are settling into a groove.
Elchert added that is always better to learn from a win than a loss and he points out the team has done a good job of evaluating tapes and reviewing what was working and what areas needed improving.
Now the best test is how much that will translate into WBL play.
Growing up in Jackson Center, Elchert is well aware of the WBL reputation and knows his team will be challenged every Friday night.
“I think the WBL is one of the strongest leagues, definitely in the area and usually across the state from year to year,” Elchert said. “You look at historically speaking the success of O-G has had in the tournament recently and Shawnee has been dominate. You look at the past where there is a number of schools like Elida or Bath or you can go down the list that have made deep tournament runs.
“I think there is great balance across the WBLwith a lot of great coaches and great players. Coming in here it is not going to be easy and our schedule is only going to get beefed up as we move in here so it is critically important that we continue to grow with each passing game.”
The Redskins last season went 3-6 in the WBL and up first for Wapakoneta this year is St. Marys that also has a lot of size and strength and was one of the better teams in the league last season after going 7-2 (only two losses to Shawnee and Ottawa-Glandorf) and 19-4 overall.
St. Marys has opened the year with a 2-1 win its lone loss coming in overtime to St. Henry. The Roughriders opened the season with wins over Fort Recovery and Marion Local.
“This is a huge start for us in the WBL,” Elchert said. “Not only is it a rivalry game but a very quality opponent. I have huge respect for Coach (Dan) Hegemier and what he has done in his coaching career. They are a very talented group and they have a lot of length and they have a lot of size which if you are looking at our roster its probably one of our weaknesses.
While size poses an issue Elchert also understand this team is still a work in progress but also feels that if they play to their potential can really make a mark this season. The Redskin head coach said he met with the players and they have set their goals and what they want to accomplish
“Early here in the year it was important to see success and we have been fortunate enough to do that in the first few weeks so we feel like we have been able to generate some excitement and some energy so as the year goes on that continues ,” Elchert said. “If we can continue to grow and get better with each passing game and learn from game I think this team is capable of beating these top contenders in the WB. Will that be easy to accomplish. Definitely not by any means but I have confidence in our kids and I think kids have confidence in themselves that on any given night if we bring our “A” game that we can compete with anybody in the WBL.”