Boys Basketball: Red Wing looks to grind out more wins
The Big Nine Conference is bound to be as grueling as ever. So it's fitting that Red Wing boys' basketball coach Drew Olinger says he has a squad full of scrappy players.
Being scrappy, according to Olinger, is the way the Wingers will try to climb out of the conference cellar after going 7-20 in his first season with the team.
"The Big Nine didn't get worse overnight. It's getting steady and there's Matthew Hurt (at Rochester John Marshall) and the Mayo transfers (Gabe and Mason Madsen, the sons of Luke, the Spartans' new head coach)," Olinger said. "There are some really good players and good athletes."
"The guys have to buy into the idea that we're not as athletic as those teams and the type of games we'll have to win this year are grind-it-out games," Olinger added. "It's going to have to be a 48-45-type of game to have the success we want to have."
In the second year under Olinger, the start of practice has gone much smoother for a veteran squad that saw a lot of juniors and sophomores get extended playing time in 2016-17.
"Last year, we were all trying to get used to what Coach Olinger wanted us to buy into," said senior Seth Yeatman, who is Red Wing's top returning scorer at 7.9 points/game. "This year, we know what we're trying to do and he knows what we want to do. He's giving us more freedom on offense and it's all flowing really well."
It's on offense where the Wingers must set the tone for a slower pace. Extra emphasis is being put on ball handling.
"It all revolves around the idea that we need to limit our turnovers. I think 75 percent of our games, the ones we lost, we were in that 20-turnover range," Olinger said. "As we continue to work and get better, hopefully we can limit that."
Two of Red Wing's primary ball-handlers from a year ago — Kipp Adams (14.1 points/game) and Jawon Terry (9.6 points/game, 1.8 steals/game) — have graduated.
"Seth will take more of a leadership role in those things and take Kipp's minutes," Olinger said. "We got other guys who are coming up and had great summers like Zach Cota and Dontray Johnson, and a kid like Carson Nystuen will get guard time as well," Olinger said.
Then there is Nathan Carlson (7.0 points/game, 3.3 rebounds/game) down in the paint to open things up for shooters like Yeatman and Teddy Tauer (7.4 points/game, 3.4 rebounds/game).
"Even without (Adams and Terry), our scheme will really be the same: Play really good defense and get a lot of open shots and work inside," Tauer said.
Olinger added, "We have the potential to be a very balanced team, but I think we have the potential, night in and night out, to have one guy go off and take over. But that could be from five or six different guys. We're going to have to have a big contribution from Nathan to be that presence down low, and we have guys who can shoot."
The 2017-18 season will begin with a two-day, four-team tournament at Red Wing, starting on Friday, Dec. 1. Hastings vs. Hudson will open the tournament, followed by Red Wing vs. Stewartville.