Leafs battle inexperience; hope to surprise teams

Amy Carton
Austin Frank puts in the shot for the Leafs. Frank returns to the Geneseo squad for his senior season.

With a new coach at the helm, but one with a familiar face, the Geneseo boys’ basketball team looks to take a step in a new direction and is prepared to make a run in the conference.

“Practices are going well,” said head coach Brad Storm, who returns to the Leafs’ bench after a four-year hiatus. “The guys are having a lot of new stuff thrown at them so we are kind of behind. It is a learning process for us (coaches) and them.

“I am sure I am missing some steps because there is a routine to get back into. There is some rust on my end, too.”

Coach Storm said while the coaches are implementing a new offense and defense, the transition has been smooth and the players are working hard.

“Offensively, it is just a matter of them learning the new offense and defensively, we will do a lot of man-to-man, but our approach will be different,” he said. “It will take some time, but I think we are progressing.

“The players came into practice excited and are working hard. It is just a matter of getting them to work harder and reach a new level of intensity.”

With the Leafs not returning much game experience this season, coach Storm is hoping his Leafs can surprise some people.

“We are going in with expectations of competing for and winning conference,” said Storm. “We can reach that goal if we keep improving and then set our sights on regionals. The goals are high, but not unrealistic. They just need some belief in that the past doesn’t dictate the future.

“I think the excitement level is high and I think they are buying into my philosophy. I didn’t get much time this summer with them and I didn’t know them at all coming in so it is all new. That is the exciting part, but there also is hesitation because it is something out of their comfort zone. Once they see it working it will be easy to buy in, but now they just have to trust us.”

The seniors looking to lead the way for Geneseo are: Jordan Reschke, Jordan Starkey, Nathan Yager, Ethan Reschke, Grant Burress, Jake Scott and Austin Frank.

“As a group, I want to see the seniors be excited about laying a new foundation and get a new, old era going again,” said Storm. “Starkey is really the only one with experience and I need all the seniors to be leaders and set the tone. I need all the guys to get better and keep buying into the system. If that happens I think we will be alright.”

The juniors who hope to make an impact this season include: Luke Snyder, Ethan Radue, Brandon Rumler, Jordan Mielke, Ryan Webster, Kevin Wolak and Austin Lindstrom.

“I need the juniors to develop as quickly as they can,” said Storm. “I need them to develop for this year, but also next year. We are going to have to rely on a lot of people early and see who will get it done for us. There are a lot of positions open. I don’t think of them as juniors and seniors, but just varsity players, so whoever earns a spot, earns a spot.”

Coach Storm said the strengths of this year’s team have not yet been determined because they are still learning.

“We have some guys that can play and have skill,” he said. “We have some speed, and Austin Frank will be good inside. If we can get some other guys to fill in and if everyone can understand their role we have a shot at surprising people.”

The biggest challenge the Leafs will have to overcome this year is their inexperience.

“The experience could have been there, it just didn’t work out,” said Storm. “Our inexperience will show early and it will take some time. I have to remember to be patient and as coaches we have to stay positive. Everyone wants instant gratification, but it won’t come right away, you have to be patient. It is all new.”

The Leafs’ keys to success this season will be how quickly they can pick up the new system, execute it at a high level and learn their roles.

“If we can learn our roles, not try to do too much and work as a team we will be better off,” said Storm. “It is just a matter of figuring things out and playing as a team.”

As far as the outlook of the conference this season, Storm doesn’t view the conference as tough as it was when he left four years ago, but knows Sterling will always be solid and Ottawa will be physical.

“I think it is a conference we can compete in,” said Storm. “Almost anyone can beat anyone on any given night. It is anyone’s ball game. There is no standout team that will walk through the conference. The fun part is there is always a chance to win.”

Storm says he hopes fans have optimistic and realistic expectations when they come out to watch the Leafs this season and can expect to see Geneseo trying to do the same things they did four years ago.

“I like to get up and down the court and like to score,” said Storm. “We are going to try to find ways to score. We are still going to count on our defense every night, but might not be as aggressive defensively right away.”

The Leafs open the season in the Geneseo Thanksgiving Tournament against Ag Science at 8 p.m. tonight.

“I am looking forward to finally getting to the first game and seeing how we respond,” said Storm. “By the end of the tournament we will have a good idea of what we need to work on, and give us a good starting point to see where we go the rest of the way.”