Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Steady progress is the goal of Wolverine boys

On the basketball court for the coming season

Express Staff Writer

Senior Matt Staskiewicz of Wood River drives for two points during the Carey game. Photo by David N. Seelig

Finishing strong with steady improvement throughout the season is the one primary objective of the Wood River High School boys' varsity basketball team this winter, second-year coach John Radford said.

"Like last year, our total focus is using the first couple of months of the season like one big camp," said Radford. It certainly worked for his first Wolverine team, which won four of its final seven games to finish last winter with a 10-13 record.

It was Wood River's best season of its three at the 4A level. The Wolverines won six of their 10 home games to reverse a negative trend and were 6-7 in their final 13 games.

Radford and assistant varsity coach Craig Eastop lost four starters from last winter's team that had nearly identical offensive and defensive averages (46.2 ppg and 47.6) and won the program's first Great Basin West tournament game.

"We lost four starters and three of the four were recognized with All-League honors," Radford said about first-team Cory Rutkowski (10.7 ppg, top scorer for two years), second-teamer Danny Sibrian (6.5 ppg) and honorable mention "Hustle and Gut" award winner Travis Beckman (4.0).

But Radford has a big presence returning in 6-5 senior center Erik Jacobson (8.8 ppg). He was second-team All-League last winter and has scored 347 points in two seasons.

Joining Jacobson are three other seniors, four juniors and one sophomore. It's a cohesive group, Radford said, one that will play inside with its back to the basket. Wolverine question marks include ball handling and perimeter shooting.

Wood River will try to break through the inevitable defensive pressure, hammer the ball inside and find some outside shooting to keep opposition defenses from totally collapsing on its promising front line.

Hailey fans should be pleasantly surprised to watch the development of two frontcourt players, 6-2 wing Greg Wakefield and 6-4 post Brian Tidwell, both juniors up from the JV.

"They'll get better as the season goes along," said Radford. "Greg is a real slasher. Brian is a sneaky mix of everything. He'll put the ball on the ground and also go into the post. We'll work on his defense. Along with Erik and Matt (Staskiewicz), we could go with a really big lineup."

Staskiewicz (7.8 ppg), a 6-2 senior wing, is a force of nature comfortable handling the ball or driving to the hoop and creating chances. His best range is within 12 feet. Staskiewicz is likely to be part of Radford's point guard-by-committee that also features 5-10 senior Ross Parsons (2.0 ppg) and 5-8 junior Michale Brunker.

Rounding out the varsity are 5-9 senior guard Pat Patterson, 5-7 junior guard Alberto Vasquez and 5-0 sophomore wing Keven Abbott.

"It's a solid nine," said Radford about his varsity, which downed Carey 38-19 and Hagerman 35-24 in Saturday's pre-season jamboree on the Carey floor—and that was playing without Jacobson (strained hamstring).

Wood River opens its 20-game regular season today, Wednesday against the Century Diamondbacks in Pocatello, then entertains Filer Friday, Nov. 30 on the Hailey court. Added to the schedule is 4A Hillcrest of Idaho Falls, replacing 2A Challis.

The favorite in the competitive Great Basin Conference West is reigning State 4A champion Burley (26-1).

Coach Jack Bagley's Bobcats lost only one player from last year's team that ran the Great Basin table with nine wins, beat Century by 13 points in the conference title game and ran roughshod over the Third District with victories over Middleton, Bishop Kelly and runner-up Skyview at the state tournament.

"Burley and Jerome will both be tough and Minico will be better," said Radford, who kept 32 players on three teams in early-season tryouts.

On the Wolverine junior varsity coached by Bruce Tuxhorn are one junior, 5-10 wing Carlos Neme, plus 10 sophomores.

They are 5-3 guard Freddy Tamayo, 5-5 guards Jordan Doan and Jacob Rodriquez, 5-8 wing Vladimir Martynko, 5-10 center Gene Fairbrother, 5-9 wing Juan Martinez, 5-5 guards Daniel Vargas and Ryan Dean, 5-7 wing Bruce Lopez and 6-1 center Raul Salinas.

Coach John Craig's freshman squad features Alex Padilla, Francisco Molina, Noe Garcia, Isaac Johnson, Jason Tracy, Kevin Jensen, Collin Dean, James Paris, Jimmy Williams, Isaiah Garza, Luis Chavez and Miles Hendrix.

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