Sophomore Wyatt Sarber is an example of the youth the Wranglers will put on the basketball court this season. Third-year coach Dave Hodges said he expects to have four or five sophomores on the varsity roster this season after his more experienced teams went 20-10 and 21-4 the past two seasons.
By Kevin Cloe
Coach Dave Hodges can’t emphasize enough how young his Wickenburg High School boys basketball team is this year.
“If you’re going to ask me how we look this year … I don’t know,” he said with almost an embarrassed grin during one of his team’s practice sessions last week. “We could have four or five sophomores on the roster this season. Really young.”
That’s in stark contrast to the past two seasons when his Wranglers went 20-10 and 21-4 with dominating juniors and seniors — reaching the state playoff quarterfinals in each of those seasons. Eight seniors on his 14-player roster last year graduated, most of those being in his starting lineups.
Five of those younger players from last year are returning this season, but only two saw significant game action — senior guard Troy Adamo, who averaged about three points per game, and junior forward Jose Vasquez, who averaged about two points per game. Three other returnees who saw limited action last year include seniors Sean Schiermann and Ian Haviland and junior Chip Cordi. The rest of the roster will include last year’s junior varsity players and newcomers to the team.
Plus, the Wranglers lack height this season. After relying on the 6-foot-7 Jackson Tillapaugh and 6-foot-5 Austin Sarber the past two years, Coach Hodges will be looking to 6-foot-3 senior Wyatt Grantham, and 6-foot-2 sophomores Wyatt Sarber and Carlos Lopez to battle under the backboards.
Sarber played at the junior varsity level last year as a freshman, and Grantham joins the Wranglers’ basketball team for the first time after starring as an award-winning tight end and defensive end on the Wranglers’ football team the past two seasons. He said he played some basketball at Vulture Peak Middle School prior to attending Wickenburg High.
Two other sophomores who Coach Hodges said could play significant roles this season are Vinny Lorefice and Kaden Conway, both who played for the Wranglers’ football team this past season along with Grantham and Lopez.
One other almost-newcomer this season is senior Nick Almstedt, who played for the Wranglers’ junior varsity two years ago but sat out last year.
The Wranglers start their 2019-20 season at the 16-team Valley Christian Thanksgiving Tournament in Chandler on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 29-30 — opening against larger 4A Conference school Mingus of Cottonwood.
“We’ll be working on our 3-point shooting and full-court press this season,” Coach Hodges noted. “We’ll play an up-tempo game and press a lot, rotating 10 players to hopefully wear down the other teams.”
The Wranglers’ first two home games are scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 3 against Bourgade Catholic and Friday, Dec. 6 against Camp Verde.