To say that Andy Kasuboski is taking on a bit of a rebuilding process with the Berlin boys basketball team this season would be a bit of an understatement.
It would kind of be like saying the Green Bay Packers have a few fans, the Grand Canyon is a bit of a hole and that Carrie Underwood is kind of cute.
Berlin graduated nearly its entire roster from last year’s team that made it to the WIAA Division 3 sectional final with only two players who saw limited varsity action last season. Junior Erich Mueller saw the most action last season averaging two points per game, including a season-high nine points in a game against Wautoma at the end of the year.
Other than that, Kasuboski is welcoming a whole new crew to the varsity level.
“Erich saw significant playing time at the beginning of the year, but later in the year his role diminished,” Kasuboski said. “We’re pretty much all new.”
Coming off a season where basically the entire roster was seniors to one where there is next-to-no varsity experience has altered the way that Kasuboski and his coaching approached the early-season practices.
Instead of fine-tuning the offense or adding in new wrinkles, much of the time was spent working with the younger players to get them accustomed to playing at the varsity level.
“Obviously we are so young that there is a lot of teaching going on,” Kasuboski said. “The lack of experience part is definitely a challenge.”
When you have a 6-foot-10, NCAA Division I caliber player, designing an offense isn’t all that difficult and Berlin funneled much of their offense through Toby Hegner last season.
But without that type of player, last year’s system is not going to work as well.
“Defensively we don’t have to change much, but offensively, that’s another story,” Kasuboski said. “With Toby, so many things opened up off of him and a lot of what we did revolved around him. We’re going to have to spread things around more and get more balance this season.”
Mueller will be one of the players counted on to deliver a scoring punch, as will juniorBryce Dretske, who saw spot duty at the varsity level last year.
In addition, sophomores Ryan Wenig and Lucas Gravunder as well as junior Joe Bartman — who Kasuboski said was the team’s most improved player from last year — will be counted on to produce points. Junior Austin Johnson is also expected to be in the rotation when he returns from illess.
“It’s nice to have a number of kids to rotate players in and it’s something that can be used for motivation for playing time,” Kasuboski said. “But you don’t want it to be where you’re trying to squeeze extra guys into the rotation just so they get some playing time.”
In fact, even with one game under their belts, Kasuboski isn’t pegging players into specific roles just yet.
“We don’t have predetermined plans for what roles our guys are going to play,” Kasuboski said. “Every spot is open and that has made for some pretty competitive practices.”
With such a young roster in such a rugged conference, sitting down before the season and announcing expectations for what will happen over the next three months is pretty unrealistic.
However, that isn’t to say that Kasuboski doesn’t have goals for his players.
“Our expectations don’t change at all,” Kasuboski said. “We rely on defense. That’s the No. 1 criteria we will focus on. Then it’s not turning the ball over and being patient on offense to take good shots.
“We aren’t looking too far ahead. We’re going to go game-by-game and maybe even break it down further than like half-by-half or quarter-by-quarter and have our success determined by that.”
EVC not easy
The Eastern Valley Conference can be a tough road for veteran teams, so Berlin faces a tall order for its conference slate.
Kasuboski knows that will be the case for his young squad, too.
“This a good conference. There are no easy games,” Kasuboski said. “There was such a turnover of rosters for so many teams, it’s hard to know what every team has on their roster, which is another reason not to make long term goals.”
In addition to the perennial powers like Little Chute, Xavier and Freedom, Kasuboski expects both Ripon and Winneconne to be much improved this season, which only adds to the overall strength of the league.
And it doesn’t make things any easier for the young Berlin squad.
“We’re basically starting fresh and that’s exciting,” Kasuboski said. “We just want to improve every day and play the best we can.”