GARDNER — Gardner-South Wilmington coach Justin Stevenson is about to embark on his initial season at the helm of the Panthers boys basketball team. A sophomore coach a year ago, Stevenson comes in after a season that was split in the coaching seat last year by Russ Gilmour and Shane Tucker.
Having been in the system, Stevenson and his team are feeling positive about things as the winter season dawns, despite the varsity Panthers having a 9-15 record a year ago.
"The juniors know me and what I run. They know how to work hard," Stevenson said. "I was with them as sophomores last year and have been with them all summer, too. I'm familiar with them, so I know what they can and can't do and what the team should be working on."
"We're hoping to have better results than last year," GSW senior Dalton Wright said. "Everyone has got to work together for us to have a good all-around team."
A lot of what the Panthers will do this winter will depend on Wright's handling a role that was vacated by the departure of the team's point guard a year ago.
"We're looking for him to handle the ball for us this year. Quinn Rury is the one that did it for us last year but he moved away," Stevenson said. "That's why Dalton is stepping into that role for us and he's done good so far."
Despite the loss of Rury, the Panthers are going to have a team that can be multi-dimensional this year.
"We're going to win differently every night," Wright said. "If someone has a bad game, this team can count on another player to pick them up. We're a hard-working team. It seems like we never stop working."
Along side of Wright handling the ball, there are other guards on the team that can shoot the rock according to Stevenson — not to mention a solid presence in the post.
"Hunter Eutsey (6-2) played in the post for us last year and he averaged close to double digits. He'll be asked to do more this year," he said. "He missed a lot of the season last year but this year is back and so far he's also stepped in and has done a lot of good things for us."
"Tristan Noonan (6-1) averaged 17 points a game last year on the sophomore team, so we're feeling pretty good about that. And we also have guards that can shoot in Cody Harvey, Mike Goodwin and Jeremy Kunz."
Defensively, Wright hinted that there may be a few wrinkles in the plans this year.
"Going back to fifth grade, we've mainly played a 1-3-1 on defense but this year we are playing more man-to-man," he said.
GSW is hoping that a good balance by the team on both ends of the floor will, at the very least, end in a River Valley Conference title for the team this winter.
"Our sophomore team played for the conference championship last year. Essentially that came down to the final game of the season in a game against Illinois Lutheran," Stevenson said. "The sophomores finished second, but then this group of seniors this year was on a team that tied for second in the conference last year behind St. Anne. We see ourselves competing for the conference championship again this year."