CRYSTAL LAKE –First-year Prairie Ridge coach Ryan Smith is implementing something the Wolves haven’t used much in a long time: man-to-man defense.
Smith has been hard at work this summer teaching man-to-man principles. Former coach Corky Card preferred a trapping zone defense that became a staple for the Wolves over Card’s 16 seasons.
Card, who lost his teaching position this spring, is now the coach at Dunlap. In steps the 26-year-old Smith and his man defense.
“I’ve always been a man guy,” Smith said. “We’ll throw zone in there for some wrinkles. The kids are familiar with it, but we’re re-teaching how to get through ball screens and stuff like that."
The Wolves are one of nine area teams playing in the Crystal Lake South Gary Collins Shootout at Gator Alley this weekend.
Smith said Prairie Ridge had a high turnout at camp this summer. The transition to a head coach position has been easier than he expected.
“They say you’re never ready to take over a program and be a head coach until you actually get thrown in and do it,” Smith said. “The transition has been really good. The kids are really good with communication."
Reloading Warriors: McHenry’s Brian March learned plenty from last year’s graduating class, which included a trio of three-year starters. As one of two returning varsity players with starting experience, the 6-foot-3 March is excited to take on a lead role for the Warriors.
“I’ll have to step into that lead role and attack with some confidence,” said March, who rotated in the starting rotation last season with 6-foot-5 forward Jacobs Evans. “People think we lost a lot, but we were a good team when we were all together as sophomores. I think we'll still have something in store for the rest of the (Fox Valley Conference)."
Second-year coach Chris Madson will look to both March and Evans to help fill a void left by seven graduating seniors, including four starters.
McHenry is coming off one of its best seasons in school history, finishing 19-10 and finishing as runner-up in the FVC (tied with Dundee-Crown). March and Evans are expected to play bigger roles this season with Gavin Markgraff (team-leading 21.7 points a game), Maki Mohr, Gio Calabrese and Patrick Breisch all graduated.
Both will be starters.
"We're kind of reloading," Madson said. "For a lot of the guys, it's their first time getting thrown into varsity competition, and they're doing well. The whole summer so far, the improvement we've seen is really good. Hopefully that can carry them into the offseason."
Madson said senior Michael Freund, who played on varsity but did not start last year, likely will be the starting point guard in the winter, while Carter Foat and Brett Loeding will also be in the backcourt.
Defense first: Woodstock coach Al Baker felt the 2017-18 Blue Streaks might have been the best 3-point shooting team he has had in his 10 years as coach. With so much focus on creating shots for those shooters, the Streaks may have lost sight of the defense.
That’s changing this summer.
“This year, day one was stance, slides, close-outs,” Baker said. “We’ve improved significantly on that end of the floor.”
Rising senior Evan Bridges is already Woodstock’s all-time leading 3-point shooter. Bridges, Carl Anderson, Andrew Adams and David Shinherr have emerged as senior leaders for the Streaks.
Alex Kantecki contributed to this report.