Basketball season is in full swing and that means the Trumansburg Blue Raiders are back to work, looking to overcome last season’s 1-16 finish. A senior-laden team looks to surmount the rocky start through a challenging early season slate. The Blue Raiders have the size and speed necessary to compete, but they need to fine-tune the strategy to make a splash in the IAC. Head Coach Paul Pennock opens up about the team and the early season.
Mark Shelley: After a tough season last year, what is the atmosphere like with the team as they look to improve this season?Paul Pennock: Our junior varsity coach, Rob Reakes and I have been pleased with the buy-in and commitment we’ve encountered thus far, not just from the players, but parents, and the school and community in general. We hope to help rekindle some of the excitement and passion for the basketball program that routinely competed for IAC and Section IV honors.
MS: Your team is loaded with seniors. What do you expect out of them in terms of leadership for the younger players? PP: Zeb Whitford is in his fourth year on the varsity team and has a great understanding of the game. He is often like another coach on the floor, and the guys respond well to him. Our other senior captains, Kameron Lincoln and Ryan Benedict, are vocal leaders and set the tone with their energy and hustle, they’re also committed to getting better and set an example for the team by how they approach practice every day.
MS: Your team continues to play hard from opening tip to the final buzzer. How have you prepared them to have that mentality, and what does it say about their work ethic?PP: I think it goes back to the buy-in from the players and the trust they have in their coaching staff. These guys come in every day with a great attitude and work hard to improve. It’s not just about wins and losses, but the commitment to get yourself better day in and day out.
MS: Early in this season, your team has had a few tough challenges. What have both you and your team learned from tough opponents early in the season? PP: We will have seen some of the best teams in the area before Christmas, and, while that can be daunting, it is also very instructional for us. A very good team can expose your weaknesses and highlight them in a very public way. We have shown good resilience in being willing to learn from it and get better, and not make excuses or get down on the process of improvement.
MS: You have been able to rotate a lot of your team onto the court during games. How does that help to grow the younger players’ game and prepare them for the future? PP: Our rotation has been pretty fluid thus far and that owes partly to the progress that many of our players have made in a month’s time. Guys have taken advantage of their opportunities when they present themselves and made the best of it. Our juniors all have tremendous potential and once they’ve become more acclimated to the pace and physicality of the varsity game, their growth as players will be obvious.
MS: What are you looking to make improvements on now that you have the first few games of the season under your belt? PP: We have not shot the ball particularly well in these games, which owes to our ball movement and our ability to adjust to pressure defenses. We’re still looking for that breakout night when a couple of our shooters can find rhythm. It’s a fun game when the shots are falling.
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