Wolves open basketball season against Trinity Christian
By Neal A. Shipman
Challenging and exciting are two adjectives that Randy Cranston, who is beginning his 10th year as head coach of the Watford City boys basketball team, would use as he is preparing his Wolves for the start of their 2011-2012 season.
The Wolves will open their season when they host the Williston Trinity Crusaders at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 29.
“With only two players, Shawn Fulwider and Tyler Bates, with varsity experience coming back it looks to be a year of many challenges ahead,” states Cranston. “However, we are very optimistic that we will take on these challenges and be a successful and competitive team in Region 8 again this year.”
Last year, Cranston’s Wolves ended their season as the Region 8 runners-up with an 18-5 record.
But the loss of seven seniors due to graduation will leave Cranston looking for leadership from 6’5” senior Fulwider and 6’3” junior Bates. Fulwider averaged 12 points and eight rebounds per game last season, while Bates averaged four points and two rebounds per game.
“It’s going to be an exciting season because if our boys decide that they are going to work hard we will all see the team improve greatly as the season progresses,” states Cranston. “We are going back to the basics this year probably more so than we have since my first couple of years here. We are going to break down things and make them simple and easy for the players to understand.”
While Cranston knows that the majority of his team is going to be lacking varsity playing experience, he has a good core of players who showed promise at the junior varsity level including 6’0” senior Lucas Nicholson, 6’3” junior Reid Brown, and 6’3” junior Cole Rolfsrud.
Rounding out the varsity squad are juniors Brice Brenno, Shane Jorgenson, Brandon Stoker, and Michael Schulz; sophomores Dustin Kleppen and Mitchell Liebel; and freshman Logan Fettig.
“I feel these younger players are excited to become varsity players, and if that excitement can lead into hard work and a determination to get better, we will have the success we are hoping for by tournament time.”
With most of his players topping six feet in height, Cranston believes that the team’s size and quickness will be the team’s strength. And that size is going to allow the Wolves to have a dominating inside game.
“We hope with our size we can get teams into mismatches when they play man-to-man defense,” states Cranston. “A lot of our offense is going to be run through Fulwider, who is a returning All District/All Region player, as we feel he needs to get touches each possession as the other players get their feet wet.”
With a young, inexperienced team, Cranston says that his players are going to need to work hard to improve their ball handling and outside shooting skills.
“As the season progresses I can see us playing eight to 10 players with each of them contributing to the success of this team,” says Cranston. “Once again we want to put a lot of pressure on defensively and will look to push the ball up the floor to get easy baskets.”
While Cranston is the first to admit that this is going to be a season with some growing pains, he is confident that by the end of the season the Wolves will be one of the top teams in the district and region.
“We are going to have a tough schedule this year as we play a few teams ranked in the top 15 on the road,” states Cranston. “However, I feel that this level of competition will only make us a better team.”