It’s been five years since Joe Rux has led the Roncalli boys basketball team to Madison but is confident his senior-laden squad can handle anything that may come their way.
Roncalli reached the WIAA Division 3 State Boys Basketball semifinals back in 2009 before losing to Aquinas 56-41. Now Rux, in his 14th season at the helm for the Jets, has Roncalli back at the Kohl Center looking to return home with a state championship despite suffering some early setbacks.
The Jets (25-1) were dealt two critical blows before they even had their first practice when guards Sam Scheer and Alex Deets suffered injuries during football. Scheer tore his ACL causing the junior to miss all of this season while the prognosis was better for Deets, a senior, who broke his wrist and was able to return towards the end of the season.
Rux says his team stepped up immediately to help fill the void.
“Having six seniors (besides Deets) really helped us along the way,” Rux said of his experience squad. “They kept their composure which is good when you have seniors who can deal with adversity.”
Rux is confident knowing he has four players who have started since they were sophomores who know what it takes to weather an early storm.
“When Scheer and Deets went down we started with a rough spell,” Rux said. “…They made strides in learning how to play together. That was the biggest challenge.”
One senior in particular who knows what Scheer is facing is reserve guard Sam Dudek who, like Scheer, tore his ACL last season and was able to make a successful recovery. Dudek has been one of the players who has stepped up in Scheer’s absence to help out offensively.
The Jets willingness to put the team first and let the offense come from whoever is having the best game is what gives Rux the most satisfaction.
“That’s what’s most gratifying,” Rux said of Roncalli’s team-first attitude. “They don’t care who scores which allows other guys to step up. Their ability to be unselfish has helped us win.”
Another player who stepped up for the Jets has been senior Josh Erickson who before Scheer went down was penciled in at center but made a nearly seamless transition to shooting guard.
After averaging just under seven points a game in the post for Roncalli, he’s transformed his game and now is averaging 17.2 ppg, which is second in the Olympian Conference.
When the team heads down to Madison to face Brown Deer (21-5) on Friday at 9:05 a.m. Rux knows he has players who can weather whatever may come their way.