Wood River High School boys' basketball players are looking to improve their scoring and solidify defense when their 20-game 2010-11 season opens today, Wednesday with a home game against Kimberly.
Fifth-year head coach John Radford returns his leading scorer, rebounder and assist man in 6-3 junior wing Stone Sutton (8.4 ppg last year). Sutton made All-Great Basin Conference honorable mention.
Also returning is 6-2 junior post Quentin Dowdle, last year's third-leading scorer at 4.1 ppg. But scoring hasn't been one of the strong points for Hailey teams in recent years. Last year's team was out-pointed on the average by a 59-35 margin.
"We've struggled with our scoring," said Radford (20-65).
"Offensively we got shots last year but just didn't put them down. But we had a core group taking their shots in the off-season and hopefully we can improve with kids willing to accept their roles who know what is expected of them.
"We should be a little better defensively—better rotating off the ball and playing the ball."
Wood River, with 31 players practicing on its varsity, junior varsity and freshman teams, has three home games in its first four outings including back-to-back games with Mountain Home and Buhl Dec. 7 and 9. The Wolverines travel to State 3A qualifier Filer Friday.
Great Basin Conference league games don't begin until Dec. 17 at home with Jerome. And the Wolverines play in one of the toughest 4A leagues in the state topped by reigning state champion Twin Falls.
Twin Falls (24-3) captured its first-ever State 4A title and third boys' crown overall last March 52-37 over Moscow (18-7). The other state qualifier from the Basin was Jerome (16-13). The Tigers dropped the consolation game 72-67 in overtime to Skyview of Nampa.
And Hillcrest of Idaho Falls, last year's State 4A third-place finisher with a 22-4 record, is also on this year's Wood River schedule with two games.
It's a tough schedule—and Radford expects the Wolverines may appear rusty tonight against a promising Kimberly team because they had their pre-season jamboree at Hagerman canceled by snow Nov. 23.
Last year Wood River (3-18) snapped a 14-game end-of-season losing skid with a 57-52 Great Basin tournament road win over Canyon Ridge—but the Wolverines (0-9 home) never managed to win at home.
Wood River's last winning season on the basketball court was in 1992 for coach Norm Cook, a 15-8 campaign when the Wolverines led by four double-digit season scorers in seniors Brian Homer, David Morgan, Travis Williams and Sean Johnson went 10-0 at home.
Indeed, Wood River has a rich legacy of winning basketball. This year's squad has two coaches who played on successful Hailey squads in the past.
Rick Bradshaw, Radford's varsity assistant, was a senior forward on Wood River's 1987-88 state tournament team led by A-2 "Player of the Year" and all-time Wood River leading scorer Brad Jaques. That team went 19-7 and tough rebounder Bradshaw averaged 10.9 ppg.
Another player on that team, Andy Portillo, is varsity assistant for coach Mendy Benson and her Wolverine girls.
The new Wood River boys' junior varsity coach is Mike Payne, who volunteered with The Community School boys' program coached by Ed Flory last winter. He replaces Liz Clark. It is Payne's first time coaching a cage team, although he has led many title teams as a player in the Outlaw League.
Payne (10.9 ppg) and Kyle Broadie were senior co-captains of first-year coach Dick Richel's 17-5 Wolverine team that in 1981-82 enjoyed a 15-game winning streak. Payne scored 21 points in his final game, a 59-52 SCIC tournament loss to Buhl—a game in which Payne played against Buhl's Ken Pierce, father of Wood River senior Halsey Pierce.
Returning as this year's boys' freshman coach is Rob Gardner.
Besides its tallest players, Sutton and Dowdle, this year's varsity features seniors Kevin Jensen, Alex Padilla and Lucito Chavez; juniors Braxton Parish, Dylan Carey, Jake Vegwert and Mica Merritt; and sophomore Ben Williams.
Radford predicted his starters would likely include Padilla, Jensen, Sutton, Vegwert and possibly Dowdle.
2010-11 WRHS Boys Basketball Schedule
A total 20 games on the regular-season schedule for the 2010-11 Wolverine boys; 10 home and 10 away. All home games at Wood River High School gym, Hailey. General admission $5. Wood River's home varsity/JV games are in bold type. Fourth District Great Basin Conference 4A games have an asterisk (*). Most home junior varsity and freshmen games start at 6 p.m. with varsity following at 7:30 p.m.
Varsity, JV, freshmen
DATE, DAY OPPONENT LOCATION
Nov. 23, Tuesday Carey/Hagerman jamboree Hagerman, 6:00/6:45
Dec. 1, Wednesday Kimberly Home, 6/7:30
Dec. 3, Friday Filer Away, 4:30/6/7:30
Dec. 7, Tuesday Mountain Home Home, 6/7:30
Dec. 9, Thursday Buhl Home, 6/7:30
Dec. 11, Saturday Hillcrest Idaho Falls, 2/3:30
Dec. 14, Tuesday Buhl Away, 4:30/6/7:30
Dec. 17, Friday Jerome* Home, 6/7:30
Jan. 5, Wednesday Hillcrest Home, 6/7:30
Jan. 7, Friday Canyon Ridge* Twin Falls, 5/7
Jan. 11, Tuesday Twin Falls* Home, 6/7:30
Jan. 13, Thursday Minico* Rupert, 6/7:30
Jan. 15, Saturday Filer Home, 2/3:30
Jan. 18, Tuesday Kimberly Away, 4:30/6/7:30
Jan. 21, Friday Burley* Home, 6/7:30
Jan. 26, Wednesday Jerome* Away, 4:30/6/7:30
Jan. 28, Friday Canyon Ridge* Home, 6/7:30
Feb. 2, Wednesday Burley* Away, 6/7:30
Feb. 4, Friday Minico* Home, 6/7:30
Feb. 9, Wednesday Twin Falls* Away, 6/7:30
Feb. 11, Friday Mountain Home Away, 4:30/6/7:30
Feb. 15, Tuesday Great Basin 4A Higher seed, 7:00
Feb. 25, Friday Great Basin completion Higher seed, 7:00
March 3, Thursday State 4A Borah High School
NOTES—The 6-school Great Basin Conference 4th District (WR, Jerome, Burley, Minico, Twin Falls, Canyon Ridge) gets 2 berths in the State 4A tournament—winner and district tournament runner-up.....In opening-round 2011 State 4A match-ups at Borah High School in Boise, the Great Basin Conference champion plays the winner of the Feb. 26 state play-in game between the 3rd District third-place team and 6th District runner-up; and the GBC runner-up goes against the District 5 (Pocatello area) champion on the other side of the first-round bracket.....Booster athletic season tickets for all Wood River sporting events during the 2010-11 school year are available. Drop by the high school and see activities director John Rade. Senior citizens 65-and-over are admitted free.