In his first year at the helm, Wonewoc-Center head coach Tory Needham inherits a team returning most of last season’s roster, but which also must replace two of its best players.
The Wolves bring back 11 of the 14 players from last year’s varsity roster. Among the three departures were senior forwards Elliott Jacobson and Walker Shore, each of whom was a key contributor for Wonewoc-Center.
Jacobson led the team with 16.2 points and 8.4 rebounds per game and was selected to the All-Scenic Bluffs Conference first team for his efforts. Shore, an all-conference honorable mention, added 7.9 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game.
While the Wolves are losing their only two members of last year’s All-SBC teams, Needham remains confident his current group of players can step up to fill the production void left by their departures.
“I’ve got a good group of juniors that are in this year: Andrew Jacobson, Kory Helm, Taylor Geitz, Dylan Degner,” he said. “They should be able to replace those two guys, right along with our three seniors: Joey Krueger, Noah Shore and Jon Fanta … and I do have a couple sophomores that will step in as well: Dawson Miller and Tucker Needham. They should be able to help out as well.”
Needham, who also serves as Wonewoc-Center’s athletic director, takes over for Mitch Miller. He previously was the Wolves’ junior varsity coach for 15 years from 1999 to 2014.
He is now tasked with trying to improve a Wolves team which finished 7-16 overall and 4-10 in conference play last season.
“This is a good group of guys,” Needham said. “If they can just learn to play together and kind of put their egos aside, there’s some good things that can happen with this team, because we fill all parts of the court pretty well offensively and defensively.”
In particular, he is excited about the potential this team brings to the table in terms of their speed and their length.
“We can push the ball up the court,” Needham said. “We’ve got some speed. We’ve got some lanky kids, too. This is the first time in a long time that Wonewoc — that our starting five is averaging about maybe 6’1, 6’2, somewhere right in there, which, for Wonewoc, is phenomenal. It’s the first time in a long time we’ve had a lineup like that.”
He noted the need for his team to improve their rebounding, but also expressed encouragement by their performance in that area through their first two games (wins over Ithaca and La Farge).
“I think rebounding is something the boys and I have talked about at length,” Needham said. “That’s one aspect that we needed to work on from last year. We have two games under our belt, and in both games, we have outrebounded our opponents.”
Ultimately, Needham doesn’t want to place a concrete number on how many wins he would like to see this year. Instead, he hopes the Wolves will remain competitive in each and every game. If that happens, the wins will start to come.
“I normally don’t go into a season saying we’re going to win this many games, we’re going to win that many games,” he said. “My expectation for these boys is that every night we step out on the court, we are going to be in every single game. We don’t want to be playing in games where we’re down by 20 points, we’re down by 30 points. We want to be in every single game right up until that final horn blows.”
“If we win, great. If we take the defeat, well at least we know we worked our cans off and we did all we could in that ballgame to put ourselves at least in a position to win.”