By Brian Kalish
November 15, 2018
Wausau– When it rains, it pours. Just ask the Wausau West Warriors, who last year endured a one-win season in Wisconsin Valley Conference play and managed only four victories overall.
However, a new day is dawning– particularly in the Valley– and the Warriors have every reason to believe that they will place a highly competitive team on the court night in and night out in 2018-19.
“I think last year was a season we saw coming,” said Warriors’ coach Nate Lemmens. “We lost a lot of seniors and had a lot of really good young kids. So this is going to be another year where we have to play a lot of young kids, but they’re sophomores this year, so we see a lot of growth from these guys, especially in their bodies and just physically. And they’ve been working on their game. So we see a lot of kids who are hungry and want to compete.”
The Warriors averaged a conference-low 44.4 points per game last season, undoubtedly a product of their inexperience as a unit. And while several key players are lost to graduation, there are some youngsters who the Warriors are expecting to keep the pressure up on opposing defenses.
Logan White, a sophomore, figures to be a catalyst in the Warriors’ offense.
“Logan started every game for us as a freshman,” Lemmens said. “He put on probably three inches. He’s a kid that just has some really good leadership qualities and just a great feel for the game.”
Lemmens identified Mitchell Zahurones and Seth Kohl as additional leaders the Warriors will rely on throughout the season.
Defensively, Lemmens is placing a premium on rebounding. The Warriors don’t possess the height or size to outmuscle teams, so rebounding by committee will be the approach.
“We don’t have anyone who is just going to control the glass by themselves,” Lemmens said. “This is a competitive group. We’re just trying to get them to understand where they need to be to be successful.”
The conference crown has resided in Stevens Point for as long as anyone north of the Portage/Marathon County line cares to remember, but there is a different feel in the Valley this year.
Gone from SPASH’s roster are NCAA Division 1 recruits Sam Hauser, Trevor Anderson and Joey Hauser, not to mention last year’s conference Player of the Year and scoring machine Drew Blair, who recently transferred from Northwest Missouri State to the University of Minnesota-Duluth.
In a word, each team in the Valley feels like it’s got a legitimate shot this year.
“I think the couple of years we took second (in the conference), we felt like we accomplished something,” Lemmens said. “You want to play against the best. They were really good and challenged you. But yes, I think the conference is good. Maybe top to bottom as consistent as it’s been in a while. So yeah, we’re excited about it. Anything can happen, I think it’s going to be an exciting race.”
The players are brimming with confidence and excitement in their first week of practice.
“I’m just ready to get into it,” said White. “I’ve been excited this whole summer… It seems like we’ve got a good, hard working group of guys who are ready to put it all out there.”
“The one thing I took away from last year is that nothing is going to be given to us, so I think we have to go out every single day in practice, every game, the weight room in the summer… Everything starts in the offseason and I feel like that’s what we’ve learned. It’s a true key in the offseason and in season to work hard every day in practice,” said Zahurones.
In terms of style, according to Kohl, fans won’t want to blink when they’re watching the Warriors.
“Fast and aggressive,” Kohl said. “We’re coming out to play right away.”
West kicks off its season in tournament play against Mosinee at Wausau East on Friday, November 23.