MCGUFFEY — Unselfish and undefeated.
Upper Scioto Valley is only a handful of teams that can boost an undefeated record at this point in the season and Rams head coach Dre White attributes his team’s ego-less approach as the main reason for the 10-0 mark.
“We have a special group of guys over here and within that group is a lot of leaders and within that leadership these guys have been really hungry and a really unselfish group,” White said. “They have made sacrifices throughout the year like it is sharing the basketball because they really don’t care who gets the credit. They put the team first and that has really worked well for us this year.”
White points to the fact that they have four players who are scoring in double digits this season.
White adds that some of the success the football team has had by winning the Northwest Central Conference and a playoff game has transferred over to the hardwood.
But that deep playoff run could have easily gone the other way, considering that the team would have a limited early practice schedule with a new coach. White was hired to take over the program after spending four seasons as the Ada head coach.
White admits moving down the road from Ada to USV was a challenge.
“Only one of our varsity guys was not a part of the football program and so we got off 10 or 11 days behind everyone else so not having much you could do in the fall with football going on so when you get off to a late start it makes coach in his first year with the program a little nervous so it did take us some time and we have a long way to go.”
Despite the unblemished mark to open their year, White sees plenty of room for improvement but adds he is happy where they are at this point.
One area White wanted to see get better with the Rams was defense and he said this has been another key to USV’s wins this year. USV is giving up an average of 42.3 points a contest. In four of those games, the Rams have limited teams to 40 points or less and only twice has a team scored 50 or more points.
“I think I’ve always been defensive-minded,” White said. “We have guys to buy in and play a little bit differently defensively and a little more active on the perimeter. With our size on the interior we have been able to hold our own in there as well.”
Offensively, the Rams are putting up an average of 61.9 points a contest and have scored 60 or more points in all but two games this season.
White said there have been five different leading scorers throughout the first 10 games, which, he adds, make the team hard to prepare for on any given night.
It doesn’t hurt that USV has Connor Sanders, who stands at 6-foot-five, manning the middle and is a major presence on both sides of the court. Sanders, a four-year starter was a first team, all-NWCC selection last season.
“He is the focal point for a lot of our opponents, being 6-foot-5 and he has been playing since his freshman year but we do have decent size around him,” White said. “We have been able to do some things inside.
“We wanted to go a little more uptempo as well. I thought we had a nice group of athletes that could get up and down the floor. That was a change for them from the past and just having that mindset of being in attack mode and that took some time and there was an adjustment period for us.”
Even though White brought in his brand of basketball, the Rams caught on soon and began gaining confidence with each victory. USV opened the year with a win over Riverdale and then posted victories over Ben Logan, Waynesfield-Goshen, Temple Christian and Kenton. These were followed by wins over Miller City, Lincolnview, Allen East and Ada twice.
“Just getting the first one goes a long way and we were fortunate to do that early on,” White said. “We had a lot of adversity early on with our schedule being rearranged so we had a lot of things going on early that you can be unsure of but to get going early was huge and we are happy where we are, but we are not satisfied and we still have a lot out there to accomplish.”
USV will face its toughest opponent this Friday when the Rams face Perry in what has become a major rivalry that the Commodores have owned the past several years. Last season, Perry won, 59-52 and in 2020 USV fell to the Commodores 64-45. In 2019, Perry was victorious 71-64. The last time USV beat Perry was in 2018, 55-48, coincidentally, this was the last time the Rams were NWCC champions, sharing the title with Elgin.
USV has finished second in the NWCC the last three seasons.
“First and foremost you have to have a lot of respect for Perry,” White said. “They have been the leaders for the past several years. They have tons of experience and have seven seniors and it seems like they have been around forever. They have a lot of nice players with Bubby Knight, scoring around 20 a game. In big games you think about who is going to execute better and who is going to play harder.
“I don’t think you have to worry about either team playing hard. I think the motivation is going to be there but it is going to come down to who is going to execute better and who is going to do the little things and maybe who is going to be the more disciplined team. That is the thing we are trying to focus on this week.”