Weekly Feature

2018-11-29 / Sports

Indian cagers enter 2018-19 wearing bull’s-eye


Nate Ryniec, shown here elevating for a long-range shot during West Seneca West’s victory over South Park in last winter’s overall Section VI Class A title game, will look to be more of an offensive presence for the Indians as a third-year starter this season. File photo by Jason Nadolinski Purchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Nate Ryniec, shown here elevating for a long-range shot during West Seneca West’s victory over South Park in last winter’s overall Section VI Class A title game, will look to be more of an offensive presence for the Indians as a third-year starter this season. File photo by Jason Nadolinski Purchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com West Seneca West boys basketball coach Des Randall knows that the Indians have zero chance of sneaking up on anyone this year, not after the season they had last winter.

Setting 15 separate team records will do that.

The Indians still feel pretty confident about their chances to defend their ECIC I, Section VI Class A-1 and overall Section VI Class A titles, even with the added scrutiny they’re planning to receive from the opposition this year. In fact, Randall went ahead and put together an even more grueling non-league schedule just to further test his squad’s mettle in preparation for another challenging postseason run.

“In our mind, with the depth that we’re adding this year, we can be even better than we were last year,” Randall said. “Even if the record doesn’t show that, our team can be better. We’re not going to sneak up on anyone this year; we know we’re going to get everyone’s best game every night no matter who we’re playing. But, we think we have the potential to be a better team than we were last year because of depth.”

The Indians bring back four full-time varsity players and four who spent at least a portion of the season helping the team finish 24-1 overall last year, a mark that included most overall wins, most league wins (12), and best overall and league (12-0) records. Many of those players helped West also set records for most three pointers in a game (18) and season (236), overall points in a game (106) and season (2.035), most assists in a game (33) and season (418), most steals in a game (24) and season (380), and fewest points allowed in a game (35).

Leading the way among those veteran players this year will be returning co-captains Adrian Baugh, a 6-foot-4 senior guard/forward, and Nate Ryniec, a 6-0 junior guard. Baugh, an All-Bee Second Team and All-State Class A Honorable Mention all-star, will have the opportunity to showcase his perimeter game a bit more this season when not using his added physicality to collect the hard-fought baskets underneath the bucket, while Ryniec is poised to take on more of an offensive role this year, his third at the varsity level, after being more of a defensive specialist in the past.

“Adrian’s growth and maturity over the summer has been pretty noticeable, and that added strength will allow him to finish inside better, to rebound better, and to just be a little more physical,” Randall said. “And with the personnel we have this year, he’ll be able to do more things from the outside, too, because he’s a great shooter as well. He’s been more of a vocal leader and a leader by example so far, too; he’s really trying to guide the new guys up from JV, to show them what it took to be as successful as we were last year.

“And Nate’s growth and maturity has really shown too,” Randall continued. “He definitely scored some last year when teams were keying in on our other guys, and that production that he’s capable of as an inside-outside threat will be relied on little more consistently this season. He understands what’s been asked of him and is then going out and executing those things. His growth at both ends of the floor has been really evident these first couple of weeks of practice.”

Junior guard Daric Rivera, meanwhile, is projected to be a starter after spending the playoff run at the varsity level last winter. Rivera, a basketball-only athlete who worked tirelessly with Randall on his game all spring and summer, will most likely draw the assignment of defending the opposition’s top guard.

“Daric is just a kid who, from the moment I first saw him playing, has just kept growing on me,” Randall said. “He gives you 100 percent and goes 100 miles per hour all the time as one of those ‘whatever you need, coach’ kinds of players. He’s a really great passer with good athleticism and speed, and is definitely one of my favorite types of players to coach.”

Another projected starter, Maurice Robertson, wasn’t with the team at all last season but is poised to bring the same athleticism to the basketball court that he brought to the football field after transferring to West from Sweet Home. The 6-3 guard/forward that Randall likens to Draymond Green “makes us better on defense, and is a great offensive rebounder too.”

“Maurice is a great athlete, a long, lengthy, bouncy, do-it-all kid who is always poised and under control,” Randall said. “He might not be great at one thing, but he’s really good at everything. He can hit the three and the mid-range shots, and he can drive to the hoop and finish above the rim. He’s another one of those players who are willing to do anything you ask him to do.”

Juniors Dillon Weir and Connor Schermerhorn, meanwhile, will look to use their experience from last season to do even more for the Indians this winter. Weir, who served in the first or second man off the bench role last season, rebounds and defends well in part due to his never-ending ability to hustle. Schermerhorn, who helped West on its playoff run last year, will look to bring the scoring touch he used to lead the JV in that category last season.

“We’re definitely expecting Dillon to take it up a notch from what he did last year, and we’re hoping Connor can kind of go after some of Alex [Wayland’s] shooting records by the time he’s done,” Randall said.

West, which has yet to scrimmage but plans to get at least one in prior to opening the season Dec. 7, will also be bolstered this year by returning senior Anthony Espe, along with juniors Tyler French and Jeremy Cuthbert, both of whom came up for last year’s playoff run.

“I think we have a lot of guys this year with similar athleticism but who all bring different things to the floor, and our maturity and experience levels across the board will be helpful, too,” Randall said. “These guys saw what it took to be successful last year and now, with a year of my system under their belts, they know the things we need to do to be successful. All of those things will make us as dangerous as we can be as we look to play a fast and aggressive style where we get out and attack teams.”

After the upcoming scrimmage, West’s first opportunity to see how it stacks up against competition other than itself comes Friday, Dec. 7, when it takes on host Canisius in the opening round of the Crusaders’ annual Tom Keenan Memorial Tournament. The Indians will then begin league play – which Randall knows won’t be a walk in the park, either – at Williamsville North on Tuesday, Dec. 11.

“We just want to build off what we did last year, and to that end a lot of the things we did that were building blocks last year for doing what we did, we can refer back to them since they’ve been proven to be successful,” Randall said. “We don’t want to be satisfied with what we did last year either. That success is over with, but what it took to get there isn’t. We’re using the same blueprint – with some improvements and tweaks – and hoping it pays off for us again this year.

“Our biggest thing this year is being perfect and great at the little things,” Randall continued. “We’ll get everyone’s best shot – everyone wants to be the first team to beat us in 24 games in Western New York – with that huge target on our backs, and though we’ve got the talent on the skills to be successful, that’s not going to be enough night in and night out to beat people. We need to execute every little detail and not take anyone on our schedule lightly. If we do those things, we have great shot at being successful.”

email: jnadolinski@beenews.com

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