The 09-10 Skyhawk Men's Basketball team is looking to improve on last year's 21 win season and 10-2 second place finish in the Arrowhead Conference.
The challenge is that the Skyhawks will have to do this with only one player returning out of their top ten from last year! Gone are All-Conference and All-Region players Kwan Waller and Rico Combs, along with starters Robbie Minor, DJ Williams, and centers D'Angelo Stewart and Jamario Dunlap who shared starting duties at the center spot.
Before you think improving on last year's season might be too much to ask, consider what Head Coach Russ Damhoff expects from this group. "The challenge will be to get to know each other's strengths and weaknesses and learn to play as a team with so many new faces," says Damhoff. "But, the talent is there for us to improve on last year's season. I'll be disappointed if we cannot make that happen."
The lone returning top-10 player is point guard Rian Nailor. Joining Nailer from last year are wings Jamison Wiersema and Tyler Marks.
"We only have three returning sophomores, but they have the ability to provide the leadership we need to be successful ", Damhoff said.
Joining Nailor at point guard are three talented freshmen; Matt VanOosten (Polo), Chuck Misuraca (Winnebago), and Dwan Horton (Rockford East). All give the Skyhawks the talent and depth they need at the one spot. Seven new wings join the Skyhawks starting with two sophomore transfers Isaiah Lewis (Iowa Central) and Heath Hoffman (Highland). Freshmen include Niko Rivera (Sterling), Eddie Cade (Rockford Auburn), Chaz Winters (Rockford Harlem), Devin Goodeill (Sterling Christian), and Zach Stralow (Morrison). Damhoff said this combination of experience and talent should give the Skyhawks the opportunity to be strong at both the 2 and 3 positions, which are so important at the NJCAA level.
Five new faces join the Skyhawks at the power positions. Leading the way are three talented transfers that include Mitch Uratchko from Mid-State Tech where he played in 07-08 before continuing on his studies and physical development last year. Also coming to Sauk Valley two years after high school is former Rock Falls Rocket star Zach House. He attended Evansville the last two years and will play at Sauk this year before returning to Division I for his final two years. The third transfer is 6'8" Troy Appelhans (Iowa Central), who, along with House, will give the Skyhawks the size and skill they need to compete against the best teams inside and on the boards.
Joining these three transfers are talented Freshman Dustin Fritsch (Sterling) and Ethan Kruse (Sterling Christian). Both will provide the depth the Skyhawks need and challenge for quality time in the Skyhawks' game plan.
Again this year the Skyhawks look to be up-tempo and attack on the offensive end before the defense gets set. With the size and rebound potential on the defensive boards, this could be one of Sauk's best transition teams in recent years if all the new faces can jell at the wing and point positions. If the running game isn't there, the Skyhawks will look to be stronger in the half court set than they have been since their last Region IV Championship in 2003.
"We have the ability with this team to be very balanced inside and out, which is going to make it very tough to defend us in the half court set," Said Damhoff. "Last year, if teams took away our running game they could concentrate on our perimeter. That caused us trouble at times. This year we will have more options and should be a better offensive team in the half court set."
Damhoff said it may take some time for this team to gel, but when they do, they may accomplish goals set by last year's outstanding team, which laid the foundation for, but were unable to achieve. You won't want to miss the action.