Warriors prepare for hoops season
Potential and inexperience abound as the 1997-98 season approaches for the Whittell High boys basketball team.
With 12 players who boast a range of skills, height, ability and determination, the Warriors hope to make the playoffs for the first time in coach Steve Maltase’s three-year tenure.
“We’re the biggest we’ve been since I’ve been here and we’ve got some really quick little guys,” said Maltase, who has seven 6-foot-plus players. “The good thing is we have 12 kids on the team. But only three have varsity experience. I’m not trying to downplay us, but we need to be overachievers.
“It’s going to take a little while before we get to the point to where we’re executing, doing things correctly and having things come naturally. Right now, it’s really up in the air.”
Maltase hopes an extensive preseason schedule will help his developing team get into the groove needed to compete against the league’s stronger squads such as two-time winner Lovelock, along with Bishop Manogue and Hawthorne. The Warriors will play in extensive scrimmages, five preseason games and two tournaments before the league-opener with Dayton on Jan. 6.
Last year, Whittell finished 7-12, 4-8 in league and missed the playoffs by one game. In 1995, the Warriors posted a 0-12 league mark.
“We’ve got a good schedule that we’ll try to use to our advantage and work out the kinks. There’s a lot of new kids learning the offense, defense and other fundamental things. We’re looking at realistically being ready to go by January,” he said. “Our first step is shooting for zone. It’s going to take some patience and some time. We’ve got guys who are going to give 110 percent all the time. And we’re going to have some fun. That’s what we want to do.”
The Warriors plan to use pressure on the defensive end, bolstered by the bench, to force the opponent into turnovers, which in turn will lead to transition baskets.
But one big missing component will be the loss of team do-all, Chris Casteleyn. Last year, the point guard averaged nearly 30 points a game en route to being named the state’s most valuable player in the 3A division.
“You don’t just lose his points. You lose his leadership, his ballhandling – he was our everything guy. I’d like to see a few different people step up and try to fill his shoes. We’ve got some outlets to go to,” Maltase said.
Added junior returner Dusty Apocotos, “It’s a big loss. Chris was the best player in the state by far. But hopefully we’ll be more well-rounded and more guys will be in the double digits.”
Junior Bob Linkul (post) and senior Matt Raab (wing) join Apocotos as the only returners. The three know it’s their job to lead the group in Maltase’s direction of patience mixed with fun.
“We definitely have a legitimate shot. We just need guys to stay eligible. It’s a lot of building right now and it’s going a little slow. But attitude-wise, it’s one of the better years. It’s looking pretty good,” Raab said.
Added Apocotos, “I don’t know what my expectations are right now. It’d be nice to make the playoffs, but it might be pretty tough. I don’t know how many players are expecting us to do real good. But, of course, we don’t want to lose. Everyone is just trying to have fun.”
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