Boys high school basketball allowed practice to begin a week earlier this year, giving teams like Oshkosh West upwards of 12 to 15 practices as well as a weekend scrimmage to get ready for the upcoming season before playing its first game.
When a team like the Wildcats are looking for new scorers to fill voids from the departing seniors, they’ll take as many practices as they can get.
The Oshkosh West Wildcats boys basketball lost its top two scorers from last year off a 9-14 season, but players like junior Jake Guenther and Eli Stanek have began to assert themselves into more prominent roles for the Wildcats basketball team.
“It has been kind of nice, we’ve got quite a few practices before our first weekend of games coming up, plus the scrimmage we had so it gives us an idea of where we’re at right now,” coach Jason Fahrney said.
West does however return five seniors, including the 6-4 forward Stanek who Fahrney believes, along with the junior Guenther, have stepped up to fill the leadership roles.
“That’s what we’re hoping for out of them. Those two are certainly talented players and we feel they have an opportunity to have nice seasons and be good leaders for us,” Fahrney said.
Guenther is the leading returning scorer for the Wildcats, averaging 7 points-per-game during his sophomore campaign. He will need to improve that average for West’s offense if they plan on improving from its 43.8 points-per-game mark a season ago.
He’ll need help from his teammates as well, and that includes players like Paul Rosenbaum, Connor O’Keefe, Cole Johnson and Spencer Lemon as well as Stanek.
“I think Jake has a lot of potential on the offensive end and we have a handful of other guys who have flashed some offensive potential so far in practice,” Fahrney said. “We’re going to need to rely on a lot of contributions from a lot of different guys this year.”
It’s on the defensive end of the court that concerns him the most however, especially stopping the explosive teams in the Fox Valley Association.
The Wildcats gave up 58 points-per-game last season, and that will not get the job done this season.
“We need to get better on defense, I think it’s all going to start there,” Fahrney said. “We need to figure out how to stop some of these other teams or it’s going to be tough this year in our conference.”
The Wildcats will get a good test to see where they stand in the Oshkosh Classic, facing Fox River Classic Conference favorite Ashwaubenon as well as Milwaukee Madison to kick off the regular season.
Until then though, they’ll keep working at it in the gym and trying to keep getting better with each practice.
“We’ve got a lot done and have some good energy at practice and the kids are working hard,” Fahrney said. “It’s been a good start to the season.”
After all, the team they are in March is much more important than the team they are in November, and Fahrney hopes his team can see the long term and the improvements as the season moves along.
“We’re just trying to be the best team we can be and hopefully that means we’re peaking right around tournament time,” Fahrney said.