2011-12 R-E Boys Basketball Player of the Year: Newman option No. 1 for WingersJoel Newman knew he’d have to shoulder more of the workload this season for the Red Wing boys basketball team.
By: Nick Gerhardt, The Republican Eagle
Joel Newman knew he’d have to shoulder more of the workload this season for the Red Wing boys basketball team.
Newman, a senior, remained the only returning starter from the previous team, but this season he was expected to become the team’s top offensive threat as the Wingers regrouped. Newman had no trouble filling that role as he averaged 17.8 points per game, 5.2 rebounds and 2.7 assists. He led the team in scoring and assists, finished second on the team in rebounding and led the team in steals.
“The biggest change was last year we had two guys coming back that were options ahead of him,” Red Wing head coach Doug Toivonen said. “At the beginning of the year he would have been option three or option four and this year he was option one. There really wasn’t anyone else.”
Newman is also option one for the R-E’s All-Area Player of the Year after taking on an increased role and flourishing.
Taking on a more prominent role required some adjustment for Newman and the team. Newman was one of four seniors on the team and both he and the team needed to find a way to play together since the rest of the roster was filled by underclassmen.
“It was just a lot of different adjustments because it was a lot of new guys playing,” Newman said. “I think we really improved as the year went on and it was fun to play with a different group of guys. They each brought something different.”
As Newman adjusted to the new group of players, he also had to find a way to balance finding his shot and deferring to teammates. Striking that balance took some time. Newman, who tries to include everyone on the team, had to find the right moments to take control of a game. Usually he picked the right spots.
“He was really smart when we needed a big basket,” Toivonen said. “He also knew there were other times we needed to work other guys in.”
Toivonen spoke with Newman early in the season and told the senior to have patience as the team worked in younger players. The team got off to a 3-5 start and Newman put some of the blame on himself, Toivonen said.
“Early in the year I think he was putting so much pressure on himself,” Toivonen said. “I think he probably felt he had to play better, he had to shoot better.”
The Wingers struggled for much of the season and finished with an 11-16 record. At one point Red Wing held a 5-12 record before closing out the season with a 6-4 mark, which included a win over New Prague.
Newman, who plans to play football at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in the fall, put together nine games this season where he scored 20 or more points. He scored a season-high 32 points in the final regular season home game en route to a 55-51 victory over Holy Angels. Newman also shot 79.6 percent from the free-throw line.
Newman averaged 12.3 points per game as a junior the previous season and finished second on the team in rebounding, but he also led the team in minutes played. This season he led the team in minutes played once again as he averaged 32 minutes a game.
It was pretty clear how much his presence on the court affected the team when he missed the first seven minutes of the team’s opening round section playoff game against Winona due to illness. The Wingers went the first 11 minutes of the game without a field goal and went on to lose 51-44.
It wasn’t just Newman’s presence on the court that made him such a valuable player to the team. His leadership played a pivotal role for a team that featured two sophomores and a freshman in significant roles. For Toivonen, it’s Newman’s leadership that will be missed most next year.
“I know that for a fact I will reference his name over the next few years when practice is lacking,” Toivonen said.
Newman felt, as one of the upperclassmen on the team, a responsibility to share with the team how to prepare for games and practices.
“I was one of the only guys to come back with experience so it was good to be able to help show the younger guys how to prepare yourself and just get better as the season goes on,” he said. “I thought they did a great job of responding as the year went on and getting better.”
Newman went out of his way to try to include everyone on the team in activities like going out to eat. That often meant giving rides to the younger members of the team, who didn’t have driver’s licenses yet. In addition to giving rides to teammates, Newman, a National Honor Society and SOAR member, spends time helping with youth football, basketball and baseball programs at the YMCA.
“I remember the guys when I was that age, the high school players who were playing, and it’s kind of cool to think that they might remember me when I’m playing,” Newman said. “It’s kind of fun helping those guys out. It’s just as fun for us as it is for them.”
It wasn’t so long ago that Newman was like the kids he helps now. As a junior high player Newman struggled with the form of his shot, but shooting for hours at the YMCA helped him improve.
“When he was really young he had a poor form on his shot as late as seventh grade,” Toivonen said. “It’s a different looking shot. If you look at how the ball releases from his hand, that’s what you want to look at more than anything.
“He’s real good at, ‘Hey, this is what I’ve got to do.’ He’s not going to put a half rear-end effort into it, he’s going to put 100 percent into it.”