ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
Marion boys’ basketball coach Rex Ostmeyer enters his second season at the helm of the Warriors looking to improve on last season’s 11-11 record and its 9-3 mark in the Cottonwood Valley League.
Although Marion won’t have a true big man in the post to pound the ball into this season, don’t feel sorry for Ostmeyer or the rest of the team.
“This group has as much skill as any group we’ve had at Marion in years,” Ostmeyer said. “These kids love to play full court and get out and run.”
Ostmeyer will rely on quickness and a stable of natural athletes to counteract teams with height.
“I would rather have skilled kids than big kids that can’t do much,” he said. “What we have this year more than anything else are skilled players from top to bottom. This group has pure skills to dribble, pass and shoot.”
Ostmeyer listed five seniors upon whom the burden of proof likely will fall.
n Jarod Hett (6-feet 1-inch). “Jarod started toward the end of last season, and put up a couple 20-plus-point games,” Ostmeyer said. “He’s our best returning offensive player.
“He will be our starting point guard, but he can also shoot the ball,” he added. “We need him to be as good as he’s capable of being-and he’s capable of being very good.”
n Tyler Stubenhofer (6-0). “Tyler is our best returning perimeter defender,” Ostmeyer said. “He played as a sophomore and he’s a kid who has a world of ability.
“He’s a great kid and a very good ball handler,” he said. “I look to Tyler to have a very good year.”
n Clayton Chamberland (5-10). “Clayton is a coach’s dream,” Ostmeyer said. “He’s so versatile, so smart, and he can play numerous positions and knows what’s going on at each one.
“He shoots the ball very well and is a good athlete,” he added. “He’s not real flashy, but he does everything well and he’s very solid.”
n Nicolas Hett (5-10). “I think he’ll surprise some people,” Ostmeyer said. “He’s a crafty player who was a solid junior varsity player last season. He’s really improved his shooting.”
n Calvin Riggs (6-0). “Calvin will probably step in and be one of our forwards this year,” Ostmeyer said. “He made a huge improvement in one year in football and I look for him to have the same type of improvement in basketball.
“He’s long and lanky, but he’s got good speed,” he added. “We’ll need him to rebound and score for us this year.”
Ostmeyer said he’s not concerned about a lack leadership on this year’s team.
“I think our main leaders will probably be Stubenhofer and Chamberland,” Ostmeyer said. “I think those two will be the ones that kick the others in the pants and get them going.
“Jarod Hett is more of a quiet kid, so he’s not going to be a verbal leader. But when we need a big basket, I think the rest of the team will look to him.”
Ostmeyer said his team’s lack of height may prove to be beneficial rather than detrimental.
“We can possibly play three or four guards at once, which might make size a concern. But at the same time it might be a positive because we can do some things with pressure and look to run. I think this team will fit better into my strengths as a coach.
“We’ll be more up-tempo on both ends of the court,” he added. “Our offense will spread a little more and work off the dribble, attack the basket, and play together as a group.”
Defensively, Ostmeyer said the Warriors will try to force their opponents into doing things they’re not comfortable doing.
“We’ll try to harass people and get some deflections and steals for some easy buckets off turnovers,” he said. “We’ll run a mix of man-to-man in full- and half-court traps a little more this year.”
Ostmeyer said he hopes the team’s familiarity with each other will also be an asset.
“This group of seniors has played together for a long time and they know how to play with each other,” he said. “I think the team camaraderie will be one of our biggest strengths overall.
“They just have confidence in each other.”
Teams to beat in the CVL are difficult to pinpoint, Ostmeyer said. But as usual, Sacred Heart likely will be a contender.
“They lost their top seven players, but their football team lost those same players and did quite well,” he said.
“Wichita Independent has as much coming back as anyone, but they weren’t that good last season,” he added. “Hopefully, we’ll be right there in the mix for the top spot.”
In order for the Warriors to be successful, Ostmeyer said certain thing will have to happen.
“I believe the key for us is that our good players will have to play as good as they’re capable of playing,” he said. “Stubenhofer and Jarod Hett can be really good players for us, and they have to be good for us.
“I think if we play together, and our good players play good and our solid players play solid, I think we’ll be pretty good.”
Ostmeyer said basketball is a fun game to coach, but extra-curricular activities teach more than how to play games.
“Athletics are important, but at the same time there are a lot of things these kids need to learn from sports,” he said. “Commitment, responsibility and teamwork are lessons they can learn for life.”
Ostmeyer said his team’s ability to achieve success will be based on a simple idea: believing in themselves.
“We need to expect to win, get better and build off last season,” he said. “Last year, we had teams we knew we could beat and we played with confidence.
“There were other teams we didn’t know if we could beat and we were tentative,” he added. “If we get to the point where we have confidence against everyone we play, we’ll be all right.
“We need to expect to be successful and play with confidence.”