ANNVILLE – Unsure of exactly from where the points are going to come, Justin Edwards has pinpointed every possible offensive source. Edwards also figures he won’t have to come up with as many points if his Annville-Cleona boys’ basketball team doesn’t give up a lot.
Defense has been an even greater point of emphasis than it usually is for the Little Dutchmen, during their preparations for the 2012-13 campaign. In fact it is not a stretch to say that Annville-Cleona will go as far as this season as its defense takes it.
“Yeah, we’re not quite sure where the points are going to come from,” said Edwards, A-C’s second-year head coach. “One of our goals is to get ten points in transition. If we score 30 with our top six guys, then we’ll be in the 40s. Offensive rebounds is another area. Derrick (Sanders) and Zach (Weaber) are active post players. Working for good shots, more quality shots. Getting great shots instead of good shots. These guys are patient. That’s something our JV team did very well last year. They’d flex the heck out of people and come up with a lay-up.
“Defense is the single most important part of our team,” Edwards continued. “We don’t have size. We don’t have athleticism. But you don’t need those to play defense. If we’re only going to score 35, then we have to hold the other team to 34.”
This emphasis on defense by Annville-Cleona has been necessitated by the graduation of proven scorers Alec Wizar and Tyson Hayes. They are two of the four starters – and seven players overall – that the Little Dutchmen have been charged with replacing.
All that from a squad which went 8-14 last season and failed to reach the District Three Class AAA postseason. But one of the things that Annville-Cleona has going for it is a return to its more natural AA classification.
“What sticks out to me most about last season was the end of the year,” said Edwards of his rookie season. “I felt bad for those seniors. It was their first year with a new staff. It was a very talented group. I felt like if we could’ve had them for two or three years, that group could’ve done very well. It took us all year to get on the same page. If the season would’ve been a little longer, we would’ve been a lot better. There was definitely more talent in the gym last year.
“It took longer than I hoped,” added Edwards. “With the expectations that group had, we hoped they’d be ready to go and guns ablazing. A lot of the kids were confused about who was in charge and what the purpose was. High school kids don’t see the big picture.”
The Little Dutchmen are taking the approach that last year was last year and this year is this year. Call it a fresh start, but there’s still a lot of talk about team and we.
Some potential sources of points are athletic 6-2 senior Zach Weaber, senior stroker Casey Smith and junior point guard Paxson Hayes. Those three will be complemented by versatile senior Adam Connor, 6-1 junior strong man Derrick Sanders and emerging 6-2 sophomore Trenton Wizar.
“I think there’s very little carry over because of the number of kids who are gone,” said Edwards, himself a former Little Dutchman. “It’s all JV guys stepping up and having their crack at it. We set it up this summer to make it tougher. Over the course of the summer, we made improvements, we got better. I think this group has tried to distance itself from last year’s.
“We’re going to play a lot of games in the 30s,” Edwards continued. “Being close in the summer, that’s progress. We hope it pays dividends. We’re not going to be blowing anyone out.”
Defense is all about moving feet, helping, communicating and desire.
“Certainly it’s (defense) our strength at the moment, and it has to be,” said Edwards. “We’ll get a better read on it Saturday at our first scrimmage. It’s going to be our go-to. There’s going to be nights when we don’t score in bunches. We’re preaching the whole team concept, and defense is as true of an indication as anything.
“It’s more motivation, but I’m frustrated with some things,” Edwards added. “It’s hard to keep them (his players) focused from one day to the next. Some of these guys just aren’t ready to compete at this level. It takes more teaching than it should.”
Perhaps Annville-Cleona’s best scenario for success this season would be to gain some early confidence, pick up some mid-season momentum and never stop improving.
“The goal setting thing is an important part of it,” Edwards said. “Kids are day-to-day kinds of people. Zach’s (Weaber) goal is to win the section (Four of the Lancaster-Lebanon League). Can we do it? I don’t know. But we want to be in the top three.
“I won’t like to compete for a section title,” added Edwards. “It’a not unrealistic. This year there’s a lot of parity in Section Four. To be in the top three in the section is the goal every year. Winning the section would be the ultimate goal. And if we’re AA, we should be in districts every year.”
Annville-Cleona will stage its annual tip-off tournament on Friday, September 7. The Little Dutchmen will square off with York Vo-Tech in the opening round, while the other competitors will include Northern Lebanon and Middletown.
“We need every single day from now until then,” said Edwards. “We can’t afford to miss practice. To be here and not be here, we can’t do it, and it’s every single guy, coaches included.
“Again, it comes back to defense,” Edwards continued. “We need to stay healthy because we’re not deep. We need to improve. We need to get better as the year goes on. We have to control what we can control, and make those improvements.”
So, as a second-year head coach, from the inside looking out, how does Edwards view the overall health of the Little Dutchmen program?
“Well, we’re not on life support,” said Edwards. “We’re making progress. Everybody says ‘burn the first year’. Our junior high program is strong. We have a ninth grade class we’re trying to keep together. Our sophomore class is very small, so they’ve (the freshmen) been playing over their heads for years.
“I would say it’s sturdy,” Edwards concluded. “I’d like to have a few more kids. I’d like to have a few more kids in the gym.”