CRYSTAL LAKE – Charley Walsh’s last head coaching job was almost three decades ago, but the first-year Marian Central boys basketball coach has not lost any of his fire.
“I’m all about being fired up, going out there and having a blast,” said Walsh, who last coached at Harvard
28 years ago. “I don’t think working your [butt] off and having fun are two separate things.
“We’re trying to instill an attitude that we can win here. It’s all about attitude.”
The Hurricanes are one of 11 area teams playing in the Crystal Lake South Gary Collins Shootout this weekend. Marian finished 2-29 last season but returns most of its roster. Walsh, 63, has been pleasantly surprised by the passion and hard work of his players.
Marian players already are warming to their new coach.
“He knows how to encourage in a way we haven’t really seen before,” senior guard Brad Truckenbrod said. “He likes to yell, he likes to get under your skin, and he likes to push your boundaries.”
“He really gets into it,” senior forward Jake Shukis said. “He wants us to win. He told us to treat any game like it’s a regional title game.”
Walsh said the strength of the team will be in the backcourt, led by senior guards Jakub Baranski and Ben Moscinski. Baranski, who missed most of last year with a back injury, played in the Hurricanes’ first pool game Friday before leaving for a family commitment.
Baranski averaged 10.3 points a game as a sophomore.
“He’s as dynamic a point guard with the basketball in his hands as there is in the area,” Walsh said. “He breaks you down off the dribble, he finds the open person, he can get his own shot, and he can make his own shot.
“He makes everybody on the floor better because of the attention he demands.”
Tough act to follow: With six players graduated, including top scorer Ryan Schaffter (16.3 points a game), Woodstock North knows last year’s success will be tough to beat.
The 2018-19 Thunder set the team record for wins (17) in a season and won its first regional championship.
“It was super exciting,” senior guard Elijah Pena said. “But after that, our goals change. We just don’t want to win a regional now. We want to go deeper [into the postseason] and win a sectional.”
North has been working on its tempo this summer.
“We lost a lot of size inside,” Pena said. “We’re really trying to build our speed and find our flow. We’re still coming together and learning about each other’s games. We’re getting there.”
New team, same concepts: After leading the girls teams to more than
100 wins and three Fox Valley Conference titles over the past six seasons, Hampshire’s Mike Featherly is not looking to shake things up too much as he enters his first year as head coach of the boys team.
“It’s the same concepts, the idea of team first,” Featherly said. “We want to win with our defense and share the ball offensively. There’s a little bit more athleticism here. I’ve seen a couple of dunks already.”
Featherly said senior Nick Erickson, a 6-foot-7 forward, has stood out. The Whip-Purs also return top scorer Collin Woods (14 ppg), Jackson Milison, Kenyan Davis and Jeremy Rosa.
Featherly won’t be handing out spots based on last season’s stats, however. The Whips went 15-16 last season.
“Right now, it’s wide open,” Featherly said. “If you take care of the ball and play good defense, you’ll find minutes. That’s the good thing about a new coach and a new system, anyone can earn a spot. No one is getting it because of what they did last year.”
More to come: After averaging
11 points a game as a freshman, Marengo’s Matt Volkening will be the focal point of a lot of defenses this winter. For now, sixth-year Indians coach Nate Wright is happy with the 6-3 guard’s progress since the end of last season.
“He’s put a lot of time in the weight room,” Wright said. “He’s made a big commitment to that. He’s a lot longer now, and he’s a bit more physical.”
Volkening, whose three older brothers, Andrew (2014 graduate), Ben (2016) and Mike (2017), were coached by Wright at some point, wants to player a bigger role this winter.
“I just want to be that leader, try and make us better every day and get us to where we want to be,” Volkening said.