WOODWARD — The W-G boys basketball program is, to use an old refrain, "starting all over again" and that suits their new head coach just fine.
Grant Tucker takes over a squad that finished just 5-18 last year, a team that shot only 31 percent from the field and that was outscored by an average of 14.3 points per game. With six seniors having graduated, Tucker said he is taking a begin-from-the-beginning style of approach.
"I sat down with the players at a meeting and told them straight out that we are starting with a brand new slate," he explained. "I told them I am not interested in what happened before but in what is going to happen from now forward. They took that to heart, I think, and came up with the motto "Tradition starts here" as a means of saying "from this point on …" and I look forward to seeing us work toward that goal.
"I will be the first to tell you that it is important to be realistic, but I see no reason why, with the athletes we have out, that we cannot take a real shot at finishing at .500," Tucker continued. "We have to be patient, but not to the point of accepting things we know we can fix."
Tucker, an Oskaloosa grad who played at Central College, was not shy about expressing his goals.
"We are bringing in a whole new scheme and ideas," he said. "This will be a big change to some of the guys and I realize it will take some time to adjust to, but I am alright with that.
"We are going to play transition basketball and look to score off our defense," Tucker said. "I intend for us to play a lock-down, man-to-man, aggressive defense. I do not believe in zones — all they do is allow too much easy scoring. I want the opponent to work hard for their shots and to pay for their mistakes."
Tanner Canova, Seth Noel and Jake Smiley are the three seniors on the squad and will see plenty of time on the floor, as will Alex Bodermann, Nick Squires and others.
"It is hard to say exactly who the top group will be at this point," Tucker said. "It is easier to say there is playing time available for whoever wants to prove they deserve it."
Smiley is the returning leading scorer after averaging 4.1 points per game last season, with Bodermann (3.7 ppg) and Canova (2.3 ppg) the only other players averaging at least one point per outing.
Bodermann was 18-of-54 on 3-pointers last season, with Canova pulling down 4.4 rebounds per game to lead the team in those respective categories while Bodermann finished with 30 assists and Smiley with 36 steals.
One area the team simply must improve upon is shooting. The Hawks hit 60-of-232 (25.9 percent) beyond the arc, but, critically, shot just 32 percent from elsewhere on the floor while being guilty of nearly 17 turnovers per game.
"There is a lot of work that needs to be done but we are not denying it and are not going to pretend those problems are not there," Tucker said. "It is going to take a lot of hard work but I must admit that I have been extremely pleased by our attitude and energy, both of which have been just great."
Tucker said one of the positives he sees is that the school has done well in different sports and that the players he has out for basketball know what it takes to have success.
"I think it translates across all sports," he said. "Some of these guys just got done playing in the football playoffs again and that means they know how to win. That helps build mental toughness and creates a desire to succeed.
"That does not mean that all of a sudden things are going to be great, because it always takes work," Tucker concluded. "What it does mean is that they are willing to put the work in, which, in the long run, is going to pay off."