Weekly Feature



2018-11-29 / Sports

East boys hoops squad aiming to improve on 2017-18 effort

by JASON NADOLINSKI
Reporter


All-Bee First Team all-star Zamari Mitchell, middle, was the workhorse for West Seneca East’s boys basketball team last winter, but coach Dan Lutman believes the Trojans will be able to utilize a more versatile attack thanks to increased depth on this season’s roster. File photo by Kathleen Kramer Purchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com All-Bee First Team all-star Zamari Mitchell, middle, was the workhorse for West Seneca East’s boys basketball team last winter, but coach Dan Lutman believes the Trojans will be able to utilize a more versatile attack thanks to increased depth on this season’s roster. File photo by Kathleen Kramer Purchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com It’s no secret that senior Zamari Mitchell was a huge reason that West Seneca East’s boys basketball team had the success that it did last winter.

While the returning captain’s dominance was nice, East coach Dan Lutman is eagerly anticipating a better showing from the team’s perspective this season thanks to a stronger supporting cast to complement Mitchell and lessen the Trojans’ reliance on him to carry the brunt of the offensive production – though he’s shown he’s more than capable of scoring at will.

“I feel like we have the best player in the division with Zamari, and teams will certainly have to game plan for him,” Lutman said. “But, with that said, I feel this year we have the experience, balance and depth to complement him and make teams pay for solely focusing on him. I expect us to compete and have a chance to be successful each and every game because of that. The expectations are high among our team, but it’s going to take a lot of hard work, trust and commitment to one another to meet and exceed those expectations.”

Mitchell will be among the players demanding the most from his teammates this season, as leaders tend to do. The Honorable Mention Class A All-State, Honorable Mention All-WNY, All-ECIC and First Team All-Bee all-star led the Trojans last season by scoring 22.5 points, grabbing 4.7 rebounds and collecting 4.2 steals per game, and he was also second on the squad with 2.4 assists per contest. The third-year guard, who scored a school single-game record 46 points against Springville toward the end of the regular season last year, scored nearly 62 percent (single-season record 496) of his 804 career points thanks in part to making a school single-season record 157 field goals – including a single-season record 70 three-point baskets.

Junior guard Trent Cordone will help take some of the attention away from Mitchell as a more than capable threat who averaged close to 10 points a game as a starter last year. Junior Andrew Radka, who is projected to start, was able to get a limited amount of varsity experience after a late-season call-up last winter, and was effective to the point where he started both of East’s playoff games. Lutman believes Radka has the potential to flourish even more this year as he continues to gain experience at the varsity level.

Six-foot-six sophomore Cole Ignaszak, meanwhile, should provide an instant spark in the post upon entering the game, with Lutman envisioning him protecting the rim while also hitting the boards and scoring the tough baskets in the paint. Even more impressively, seventh grader Jaiden Lewis was able to earn a spot on the squad with a poise beyond his years. Lewis, who will be one of East’s top reserves, has the ability to guard the perimeter and score based off just his athleticism.

“I think the guys aren’t going to just look to Zamari to make every play anymore because they’re more confident in themselves thanks to their experience,” Lutman said. “In general, I feel like we have more of an inside presence this year to where we won’t need to just rely on the three-point shot, as the ability to get some easy baskets inside will create more opportunities for our playmakers.”

East has been able to get some early looks at just how much that cohesion and team mentality might appear in regular-season play by virtue of its scrimmages against North Tonawanda and Pioneer. As is the case with most preseason outings, Lutman saw both positives and areas in which there is room for improvement – some of that was due to not having the players from the football team available, as they were making their run to last Friday’s state championship game – and, with a few days remaining before opening the regular season, the opportunity is there to work on both areas to solidify their approach before the competition starts counting.

East officially kicks off its season Friday by hosting Hutch Tech before facing I-Prep the following Friday as part of the annual Pastor Cooper Showcase at Daemen College.

“it’s just going to take some time to be where we want to be and all be on the same page, but we’ll get there,” Lutman said. “The good thing is that we’ve played together a lot and had some success at the end of last year and in the offseason, and bringing back the experience from last year that we do, I expect us to make the necessary adjustments pretty quickly. I think there’s going to be a lot of balance in the league this season, and I feel that there’s three or four teams that can legitimately win the league this season – including us. I truly feel that, for the first time since I’ve been here, that this school has a legit shot to compete for and win a league title.

“We just need to be consistent with our attitude, our trust in one another and in what we’re doing, and our effort both in practice and in games,” Lutman continued. “We want to be able to slow things down and work the half-court offense a bit, but we also want to play fast on defense in order to create transition opportunities.”

email: jnadolinski@beenews.com

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