Jake Steger’s first year as head coach of the Mayville boys’ basketball team didn’t go as planned.
The Cardinals, who had high hopes of finishing in the top half of the Flyway, finished with a 7-16 record including a 3-11 mark in the conference, which was tied for last.
You can’t blame the second-year head coach, though, as the Cardinals had gone through a bunch of adversity. They had suspensions, injuries and other things that were out of Steger’s control.
“My first year was rough,” the coach said. “A lot of things occurred for me that were out of my control. We were competitive with a full roster, but we were never in full swing.”
Steger said the team had a lot of potential last year, but believes they have even more this year. The Cardinals return two of their top scorers from a season ago in Tyler Walker (12.2 points per game) and Brent Gassner (9.2).
“It’s very accountable that we can finish in the top four this year,” Steger said. “I said that last year, and we did have the group to do it, but things got out of my control. I think we have a better team this year.”
Seven of the top guys returning for the Cardinals are seniors. Besides Walker and Gassner, Steger said Elliot Schellpfeffer, Brett Schellinger, Logan Wild, Sid Lehman and Matt Mayer are all guys to keep an eye out this season.
Walker, who is the only returning player to earn all-Flyway honors from last season (second-team), looks to lead once again.
“He is 6-foot-7 and no one in the conference can compete with his size,” Steger said. “He’s gotten even more athletic. Then we have Mayer who is 6-6 and can play around the rim. Schellinger is 6-4 and highly athletic. We have a lot of kids with height who have only gotten better.”
The Cardinals also return Wild, who didn’t play last season. He played in every game his sophomore season and specializes in his defense.
“He didn’t play last year but he is one of the best defenders I’ve ever seen in my life,” Steger said.
Lehman averaged 6.9 ppg last season and was first on the team in three pointers made.
Schellpfeffer didn’t score much last season, but Steger said he has the ability to drive to the hoop without hesitation.
“He’s only 5-7 but he’s explosive,” he said. “He can break anyone’s ankles and he’s improved a lot.”
Play as a team
The biggest weakness the Cardinals possess is a lack of team chemistry. Steger said that’s the key thing as they gear up for the regular season because even a team that has all the talent can’t play well if it doesn’t get along.
“This group has struggled to get along because of the virus we call losing,” Steger said. “That can be demising for any program. We’re trying to build a winning culture here. We look at it this way. We have the senior leadership to do good things, but ultimately it’s up to them to get along and play as a team.
“You can talk about being over .500, a conference championship or having home playoff games, but if you don’t get along, what’s it good for?”
Another thing Steger wants to improve on is the team’s rebounding.
He said he knows his squad isn’t the best shooting team, but with all of the height it has, there’s no reason it shouldn’t be a great rebounding team.
“Another thing is rebounding,” Steger said. “It’s kind of a joke because we have all of that size, but we just hope to improve on that.”
He also mentioned that he’d like to see more consistency throughout the game, as his team had troubles showing up for all four quarters last season.