SYRACUSE – Experience, talent and depth. Three attributes that can be found on most successful teams in any sport and three attributes that the Wawasee basketball team boasts entering the 2014-15 season.
The Warriors will be loaded will upperclassmen as seven seniors make up the majority of the 11-man roster. All seven are returning lettermen and each saw extensive minutes with the varsity squad last season. The team returns a total of 10 lettermen.
Last season Steve Wiktorowski took over as head coach for the Warriors and brought with him a defensive state of mind. Wawasee, a team that had been known for its up-tempo, run-and-gun style of offense was suddenly facing an entirely new philosophy.
Wiktorowski took over in the middle of the summer, leaving little time for him to get his system implemented with his players. That put Wawasee behind the eight ball heading into the season but the Warriors were still improved on the defensive end, allowing just 54 points per game after allowing 65 in the previous season.
“We plan on picking up right where we left off defensively,” Wiktorowski stated. “We want to continue to do what we did last season but turn it up a notch. We want to increase our pressure and create more turnovers.”
However, there was a lack of production on the offensive end as Wawasee only eclipsed the 50-point threshold four times in 21 games. With a full spring and summer of open gyms and shootouts, Wiktorowski knows his team enters this season in a much better place than last year.
“We’re clearly further ahead than we were at this point last year,” began Wiktorowski. “We’re further ahead in our understanding and I think the kids have matured a lot, both physically and mentally. I think they understand a lot more about what it means to have to compete in the Northern Lakes Conference and hopefully we can take advantage of that understanding.”
Wawasee has lost 21 consecutive NLC contests dating back to February 15, 2011. Wawasee was close on several occasions last season. The Warriors watched late leads slip away against Elkhart Memorial, Goshen and Plymouth and suffered an eight-point loss to a top-10 ranked NorthWood team.
The full summer of work has given Wawasee more confidence on offense. Gage Reinhard and Alex Clark were the leading scorers for the Warriors last season and both made huge strides towards the end of the season.
Continued development will be key, not just for Reinhard and Clark, but for the rest of the Warriors as well. Jeffrey Moore and Aaron Voirol will provide a three-point presence along with Jake Hutchinson and David Rocha. Sam Clark will see extensive work at the point while Stori Bright and Elijah Solina will handle work in the paint.
Jayce Boatwright, a 6’2″ junior, showed a lot of promise last season but his development came to a screeching halt as he missed significant time following a freak accident in the weight room. Wiktorowski said Boatwright has already been making a large impact and should see significant minutes this season.
There are a lot of pieces this season, the trick is making them fit in the right places. If Wiktorowski and the Warriors can figure out how it all fits together, then they could turn a few heads this season.
“We haven’t talked about any specific goals,” Wiktorowski said. “I think everyone on the team can agree that we want to end that NLC streak and win a sectional. The conference and sectional fields are more open this year then they have been in years past. But last year we had a rough start so our biggest goal right now is establishing that first ‘W’ and building off of that.”
Wawasee will have its first shot at getting that ‘W’ Tuesday night when it welcomes in the Fairfield Falcons for a 7:30 p.m. tip.