There’s going to be no mistaking Valley Christian’s plan of attack entering the 2013-14 basketball season.
Under first-year head coach Eric Lehocky, the Warriors are going to let their defense lead the way and hope they can turn a strong defense into some more wins this year.
“We’re going to going at teams defensively. Not going to allow easy buckets and flying all over the court. We’re going to try to get a lot of our points off of transition and our defensive stops,” said Lehocky, who was hired this summer to replace Greg Jonas. “I think we could be a pretty good defensive team.”
A year ago, Valley Christian surrendered an average of 66 points per game and held only three teams to less than 50 points — winning two of those contests, including its lone league win against Oakfield.
On the other hand, the Warriors gave up at least 80 points three times last season and were touched up for 98 points by Central Wisconsin Christian near the end of last year.
Lehocky, who has held various positions on the Oshkosh West staff in the recent past and has also coached with the Wisconsin Blizzard AAU teams, expects those numbers to change.
“I’m a defensive-minded coach and the teams I’ve coached have always been good defensively,” Lehocky said. “Right now our defense is better than our offense and our transition, but we still need to get better.”
The goal of the improved defense is to not only bring opponent’s point totals down, but also create turnovers that can lead to easy baskets.
That’s something that could definitely help the Warriors, who aren’t loaded with offensive weapons.
“We have to create turnovers,” Lehocky said. “If we get stagnant on offense, but still create turnovers and get buckets off fast breaks.”
No denyin’ Ryan
If there is one player who will be the anchor of the Warriors offense it will be junior guard Ryan Van Maanen, who averaged 12.4 points per game last season, was named honorable mention all-conference and was the only sophomore to earn all-Trailways North honors.
Van Maanen hit double figures in 14 of 20 games last season, including a season-high 27 points against Goodman-Pembine.
In order to take advantage of his offensive skills, Lehockey is moving Van Maanen from the point guard position he’s played the last two seasons and to the No. 2 guard spot in the Warriors lineup.
“I’m moving him away from the point guard position so we can create more offense for him and through him,” Lehocky said. “We’re going to be scrappy players and our guys are going to hustle.”
Moving into Van Maanen’s place at point guard spot will be newcomer Michael Dunn, while seniors Joseph Schettle and Kyle Peterson joined Van Maanen as the top returning players for the Warriors.
“Those guys have been around the program. They’re excited because they know we’re coming in with some changes and they are open to them,” Lehocky said. “”With the new offenses and defenses we’re putting in, new schemes, my coaching philosophy. Those are the three guys who are teaching the younger ones and are probably the three best players.”
Lehocky said he is also looking to freshman Brent Kiefer to contribute offensively for the Warriors.
One of the key battles a program like Valley Christian — where the school enrollment is about 70 — faces is getting enough players out to support the program.
That was a game that Lehocky has won as 14 players are out for thje team, meaning that the Warriors are able to field both a varsity and junior varsity squad.
“When I was hired, we didn’t plan on being to have a JV team. So those are pretty good numbers,” Lehocky said. “We will suit up 10 on varsity and some of those kids will be playing both. It’s a great chance for them to get some experience.”
Having some depth to work with will also allow Lehocky some flexibility when it comes to games.
“Our personnel is pretty interchangeable,” Lehocky said. “We have guys coming off the bench who can play pretty much any spot or I can slide someone over to a different position.”
With the number of players out, there are also varying skill levels that Lehocky and his coaches have to deal with.
Whereas some players on the roster have a wealth of experience under their belts, some are just starting out.
“The talent levels are a little bit different,” Lehocky said. “I haven’t had to really teach fundamentals in the past. You can coach the fundamentals, but I’m teaching fundamentals to the younger guys and they’ve picked up pretty fast.”
Things looking up
Despite coming off a season where the Warriors won five games overall and just one in conference play, Lehocky is pretty upbeat about where the program is headed.
It may not result in a boatload of wins this season, but he sees the Warriors being more competitive this season.
“We’re getting better every practice. That’s the important thing. We’re going to be scrappy players and our guys are going to hustle,” Lehocky said. “Right now, I think we are capable of being in the middle of the pack (in the Trailways North) and the last few years, I think we’ve been on the bottom.
“With only one conference win last year, the only way we can go is up.”