Dribble, pass, shoot--all at top speed. West Iron County’s boys basketball team runs (literally) a drill during a recent practice, as the players get ready for their Dec. 5 season opener at Westwood.
IRON RIVER—During Dan Schive’s first season as West Iron County varisty boys coach, the Wykons were spectacular—spectacularly inconsistent.
In year two, expect the spectacular moments to continue … but with a more consistent team. That’s the plan.
“It will go fine once we get fully organized and into a groove,” said the coach after one of the team’s first practices recently. The Wykons begin their season next Monday, Dec. 5, at Westwood.
One change from last season is that the Wykons will only carry nine or 10 players on varsity this year—last year, they had 15. “Not huge numbers,” Schive said, “but we have kids who can play.”
Of the nine (or 10), seven should be familiar faces from last year. First are the three returning starters: Caleb Pellizzer, Kahree Beaudrie and Jordan Davis.
Tyler Stafford is battling hard for a starting job, and Ryan Richard, Austin Waara and Jamie Newby should all see more time. Waara, in particular, had a strong second half last year.
Beaudrie, Waara, Stafford and Davis are all juniors who played on varsity as sophomores.
Joining them from the JV team are junior Alex Ralston and sophomore Adam Newby. Ralston will be able to fill several roles off the bench, and Newby will also have a role.
“As long as everybody keeps up with their homework and grades,” Schive said, “nine will be fine. Everybody will get plenty of time and plenty of reps in practice.”
The coach said he would be tweaking a few things for this winter, “but otherwise there’s not much difference from last year. We’re going to try to rebound and run like crazy. Shoot the ball when we’re open, play enough defense to get the ball back and go again.”
The team lost eight players from last year, including starters David Pellizzer and Nolan McCarthy. Schive is hoping the Wykons will find someone who will step up and become an ace rebounder. He also wants to develop/find a point guard. “But it’s not different than any other year.
“Last year, at the end of the year, we didn’t rebound as well as we should have because everybody thought David [Pellizzer] was going to get every rebound. As a team, we’ve got to rebound better.
“And then we’ve got to go and go. If you’ve got horses, let them go. I fully expect we should go up and down the floor at a real fast pace. The goal is to run.”
The Wykons seem locked and loaded at guard—plenty of depth. The key will be the big guys down low: Davis, Stafford and Richard. Can they score inside and pull down rebounds? “If we can, we’re going to be really good.”
Last year’s Wykons finished 10-10 overall and 3-5 in the West Pac Conference. Schive doesn’t put much stock in a glossy won-loss record. “Yes, I’d like to win a lot of games. It’s more fun when you’re winning.
“But we’ve got unsettled business from last year. The goal for the kids this year is to get out of the districts and go as far as we can from there. That should be the goal every year you’re coach—win your district and go as far as you possibly can after that.”
In Schive’s first season as coach, the Wykons earned their first district tourney win in many years, stopping Iron Mountain in the semifinals. But Norway got away to a 15-9 lead in the first quarter of the district title game—the Wykons cut it to one in the fourth quarter but ended up losing 64-57.
Norway has won the district title three years in a row, and the Wykons play them twice this season, on Dec. 22 (here) and Jan. 27 (there). “If we get it all together and play the way we’re capable of playing, I fully expect we should get out of the districts. Will we? I don’t know. But I want to play as far into March as absolutely humanly possible.”
Top West Pac opponents include Hancock, last year’s conference champs, and Calumet and Houghton should be battling for the top rungs on the ladder. Two years ago, when Schive was JV coach, the Wykons battled Houghton and Calumet for first. Those kids are varsity now.
The Wykons played in the Iron River summer league at Bachman Park, and they went to a team camp at Stevens Point. “That was an eye-opener,” he said. “We learned a lot, and it will help in the big picture. Between team camp and Bachman, we got a lot of games in.”
Kevin Leonoff returns as JV coach and varsity assistant.
• The Wykons tip off the new season on Dec 5 at Westwood. They visit Forest Park on Dec. 12 and tip off the home season Dec. 15 against L’Anse. In all, they have six games during December, including a Dec. 29 home game against Escanaba.
The Wykons play four straight home games in mid January, balanced by three straight away in mid February. Norway replaces Bessemer in their nonconference schedule.