Van-Far boys basketball team. Front row, from left: Chris Gerdeman (Jr.), Dylan Stubblefield (Sr.), Cody Stubblefield (Sr.), Ethan Gooch (Sr.), Brian Kurz (Sr.), Ryan Nelson (Sr.), and Ryan Decker (Jr.). Back row: Head coach Pat Connaway, Nick Barnes (Fr.), Cody Swarthout (So.), Woodrow Jackson (Jr.), Nick Carpenter (Fr.), Trenton DeTienne (Fr.), Slade Luna (Jr.), Billy Picton (So.), Wyatt McDowell (Fr.), and Michael Colson (Fr.). Not pictured: Brandon Otis (So.) and coach Brett Reading.
The Van-Far varsity boys basketball program will be on the hunt for tournament hardware in the 2012-13 season. The Indians squad has three returning starters and eight returning players with three newcomers. Indians head coach Pat Connaway expects a shell-focused defense and controlling offense will maintain team competitiveness in a demanding schedule.
“We are hoping to get off to a better start than we have the past two seasons, confidence will be a huge factor with this team,” Connaway said. “This team should be our most balanced team that we have had in a long time.”
Connaway said one concern is keeping the kids’ mind on the court in game situations but experience from returning varsity teammates will help the Indians’ younger squad.
“Freshman Nick Barnes will see a lot of varsity action,” Connaway said. “We will be relying on several of our juniors to step in and contribute significant minutes.”
Connaway said the team will also rely on significant experience from returning starters Brian Kurz, Ethan Gooch, and Ryan Nelson.
“All of these guys have done an outstanding job of leading and taking the younger guys under their wings. They really want to win and they realize in order to do so they need the help and contributions of their younger teammates,” Connaway said.
He said the defense has been relying on “shell” principals, staying off the ball and in help positions.
Offensively, “We should be a very good team inside and should be able to utilize our size and athletic ability to control the offensive boards and hopefully be able to get a lot of easy baskets,” he said. “We have struggled in the past knocking down outside shots and our perimeter ball handling has to be better than what it has been.”
For conference play, Connaway said the Indians this year won’t be playing Community R-VI, Clopton, Silex and Wellsville twice, which had been tradition in years past. He added that his squad will come to meet every conference team once.
“This means Elsberry, Montgomery County, Wright City, North Callaway, and Bowling Green are all on the schedule. It should be a tough and competitive conference,” Connaway said.
Districts will also be a test for the Indians. With this season’s realignment, Connaway said the Class 2 District 5 lost New Bloomfield and Community R-VI, and gained South Shelby and Canton.
“Both South Shelby and Canton will be very good ball clubs with Canton probably being state ranked when it is all said and done,” Connaway said. “Clopton, Louisiana, and Silex will also be tough. Hopefully, by the end of the year we will be peaking and playing our best and will be able to compete for a district title.”
He said the squad has been responding well to reviewing and breaking down film, which Connaway expects will consume several hours this season with the benefits he had seen from it last year.
“They really got to see what Coach Brett Reading and I had been telling them and started responding to it really well,” Connaway said. “We are looking forward to a very good and successful season. We are hoping when we have home games that the people of the community will come out and support these student athletes. They are working really hard and I think their hard work will pay off for them this season.”
Last season the Indians finished 6-18 on the season winning the last four of the five games heading into districts.
“We have been very positive, energetic, and talkative so far this year,” he said.
“The seniors have realized this is it and this is their team so they have finally taken that leadership role and have been leading by example. Right now I feel that we are farther ahead developmental wise than we were at any point last season.”