It was a tumultuous offseason for the Oshkosh West boys basketball team.
Gone is last year’s head coach Brad Clark after his contract was not renewed by the school district despite pleas from players and families that resulted in a heated display at two board meetings.
But that was last spring. Now, with a new head coach and a fresh season before them, the Wildcats look to put that behind them and focus on the now.
“I think we are past that,” senior Andrew Boeder said. “We are just focusing on this season now.”
“If we can get over that we can get over a lot of things,” senior Blake Derickson added.
It’s a sentiment at new head coach Jason Fahrney — who was an assistant last year and coach the JV — also shared.
“We are totally focusing on moving foward,” he said. “We are not going to worry about things that were out of our control.
“We are just ready to move forward and we aren’t looking back.”
Knowing each other
What may be most important about Fahrney stepping into the head coaching position for the Wildcats is that he has coached most of the kids that will be on the floor for him at the JV level.
Where as a new coach coming there would be a feeling out period between the players and the coach as far as a personal level, with Fahrney there is none of that.
“I’m very comfortable with these guys,” Fahrney said. “I’ve coach just about every one of these guys at some level. I’m very familiar with their strengths and weaknesses.
“I think it helps them, too. They know who I am.”
For the players, it has made the transition easier. The know what Fahrney is about and what’s going to happen when he is coaching.
“I know how he coaches and I know how he want’s me to play,” Boeder said.
That also means that the Wildcats will run basically the same stuff from last year.
“He has a lot of the same principals for the team because he’s been here for awhile,” junior Eli Stanek said.
And that means that they’ve been able to hit the ground running without much of hitch as their would be with a completely new coach.
Defensively, there will be no change for the Wildcats.
“We won’t change much from what we’ve done in the past in this program,” Fahrney said. “There is going to be a mix of man-to-man and some zone.”
On offense, there maybe a few slight wrinkles here an there, but there won’t be a complete overhaul of the system from last year.
“We are going to run a lot of motion offense,” Fahrney said. “A lot of screening, a lot of cutting, a lot of moving.”
“It’s less balls screens and more movement away from the ball,” Stanek added.
There are a lot of returning players for the Wildcats this season.
They can all score the basketball, too.
“Having a number of guys back that have varsity experience is definitely a plus,” Fahrney said. “And we got some kids that can do some things.”
It will all probably start with guard Andrew Boeder, who is the top returning scorer and second leading scorer last season. Boeder has plenty of range and is a silky jumpshooter. Alex Rodgers also returns for some punch from the outside.
They have slashers and penatrators, too, in Eli Stanek and Trevor Wenig, who showed flashes of brilliance last season and can also hit the three.
They also have their big man back in Blake Derickson, who came on strong at the end of last season with four double-digit games in the last nine games.
If anything, the Wildcats will have one of the better scoring punches in the Fox Valley Association this year.
“We have a lot of 3-point shooters,” Boeder said. “If someone drives, we know where someone is going to be. We know where to kick it out to for the shot.”
The need for ‘D’
With all of that scoring back, Fahrney’s focus in practice has been on the defensive end of the court.
Last season wasn’t a great one for the Wildcats on the defensive end, giving up nearly 60 points per game last year. In a conference as tough as the FVA, that’s not going to win many games.
That’s why Fahrney has been preaching defense more and trying to get his scorers to lock down on defense so they don’t have to get in as many shootouts.
“It’s just a matter of getting it all put together and matching the things these guys can do offensively on the defensive end,” he said. “They have to be able to do it at both ends and that’s something that we are really focusing in on.”
There is a term for teams who have a lot of good players but nobody’s picking them and are unsure about how good they can really be.
It’s called ‘sneaky good.’ And it’s just what the Wildcats hope to be. Sneaky and good.
“It’s kind of nice that no one expects us to be at the top,” Stanek said. “I think we can make a run.”
But if they are to sneak up on the FVA, it won’t be just because they snuck up. Fahrney knows what a run like this is going to take.
And if he can get his team to play like they know that they can, who knows what can happen.
“If we just take care of the things that we can control and we compete hard every night, the wins and losses will take care of themselves, Fahrney said. “All I’m going to ask these guys to do is play hard and play smart and unselfishly and we’ll look up at the scoreboard at the end of the game and see what happens.”