Prep boys basketball: Inexperienced Firebirds plan to push the pace

Lakota West coach Matt Rooks is shown coaching the Firebirds at Fairfield on Feb. 5, 2016. COX MEDIA FILE PHOTO

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Lakota West coach Matt Rooks is shown coaching the Firebirds at Fairfield on Feb. 5, 2016. COX MEDIA FILE PHOTO

Uncertainty surrounds the Lakota West High School boys basketball team this season.

The Firebirds lost the main pieces from last year’s team, and they look to bounce back from a 7-16 finish with a whole new lineup. Inexperience, coupled with some changes in style of play, make for a lot of question marks going into Matt Rooks’ fourth season as coach.

“We have a lot of sophomores and juniors that haven’t played a lot, so we’re young starting out this year for sure, but it’s a good, hard-working group,” Rooks said. “It’s just really hard to know what to expect with so much inexperience.”


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West has five seniors. They just didn’t get a ton of opportunities to make an impact last year while playing behind a large class ahead of them.

Senior forwards Spencer Farthing and Conrad Kurtz, junior guard Max Kiker, and sophomores Jared McCorkle and Daved Jones are among the top returnees expected to contribute. But none averaged more than 2.9 points a game, and most of them played an average of 10 minutes or less last year.

Rooks expects newcomers like Lakota East transfer Matt DeSalvo, football standout Steve Faucheux and sophomore forward Hunter Anderson also to see a lot of playing time. DeSalvo, a junior guard, will have to sit out to start the year because of transfer rules. Faucheux came out for the team for the first time as a senior forward and adds a big body to the roster.

“We’ll probably use 12-13 guys a game, and we could have a new starting five each game,” Rooks said.


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West normally plays a slower tempo game, but with so many guys expected to get playing time, Rooks has decided to take advantage of the rotation to pick up the pace.

Scoring seems to be down among area basketball teams in recent years because of so many teams playing a slower pace, Rooks noted, so the Firebirds hope to get things going by breaking that mold. West scored just 42.3 points per game last year, which ranked last in the Greater Miami Conference.

“We have a little more depth this year, which allows us to play that way, but we’re kind of throwing a lot of guys into the fire without experience and just learning as we go,” Rooks said. “It will be a challenge.”

The defense also will see some changes as West moves away from the zone to more of a man-to-man. Rooks said he likes what he’s seen so far on that end of the floor, but the Firebirds are still learning little things like how to play aggressively without fouling.


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“Our motto is just to be the best we can be and win every possession on both ends of the floor,” Rooks said. “We have to start small and the results will come eventually.”

Fortunately for Rooks and his team, the Firebirds are still showing a lot of enthusiasm despite last year’s shortcomings and the uncertainty surrounding the program this season. The positive attitude of the players gives Rooks plenty of hope for improvement.

West went 8-15 in Rooks’ first season in 2014-15, but followed with a 15-9 record before last year’s struggles. The Firebirds look for a better start as they open Dec. 1 at Turpin.

“Last year was challenging,” Rooks said. “Some of these guys were part of that, but the young guys haven’t experienced that. The biggest thing that I think is going to make a difference is the change in attitude. Last year some guys were about themselves and not the team. This is group is a fun group to coach because we don’t have to deal with that. They are very much about the team, and that mentality is bringing a positive change.”

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