POMONA — West Franklin High School boys basketball coach James Spencer worked hard to get the program stable. He feels it is on stable ground as he begins his fifth season.
Despite significant losses from last year, he has a team capable of winning the Flint Hills League and making noise in the postseason.
“I have several guys that played a lot last year and stepping up into more significant roles than they had last year,” Spencer said. “It is a good group. They are a very coachable group.”
He has 28 on the squad and more than half are either freshmen or sophomores.
“There has been a lot of teaching,” Spencer said. “The learning curve has been pretty slow for the younger kids. They are not going to come in here and not work hard.
“Obviously when you first come in there’s got to be some buy in. We have buy in. We have had some really good guys that past couple of years and it changed the program around. We tied for second in the league last year. We really competed.
“We expect to be in that situation again this year. Once you start winning, you don’t lose that expectation. You always want it to be very high.”
He said the cupboard is not bare with four players with significant minutes returning.
“We do have a lot of juniors that played a lot as sophomores,” Spencer said. “They understand what the expectation is. It is good for them to take the leadership role for this year to bring along those young kids.”
Matt Gray is the lone senior. The 6-foot-4 all-state candidate has the game to average a double-double. Will Duda returns after starting last year. Tyler Rogers was a part-time starter and played a lot. Clay Altic will be inserted into a starting role after coming off the bench last year.
“We always tweak things with what personnel we have,” Spencer said. “We pride ourself on playing good hard-nosed defense. We are going to do that in a little different way this year. Offensively, we have a good group of big kids, so we are going to try to work things through our bigs.”
Gray will shoulder a lot.
“We are looking for Matt to be a real good leader,” Spencer said. “He understands teams will focus on him. He has to be able to make other people around him better. He is willing to do that.”