By TIM BIRNEY
Valley Sports Report
WAVERLY — Waverly’s Scott Woodring got off to a historic start to his junior year, averaging 32.7 points and 16.9 rebounds per game through the first seven games, but a season-ending knee injury during practice derailed his season, and that of the Wolverines, who lost 12 of 13 to close out the 2018-19 campaign.
(Waverly opens the 2019-20 season tonight at Union-Endicott.)
Woodring worked his way back to play summer ball, and was practicing with the football team this fall, but he tweaked his knee while stretching, forcing a second surgery in nine months.
Woodring was back on the court to start the basketball preseason, but longtime Waverly coach Lou Judson said he has some work left ahead of him.
“It’s a day-by-day, week-by-week process for him,” he said. “Conditioning is everything in the game of basketball, and right now he’s not where he needs to be, but that’s to be expected with two knee surgeries in the last 11 months.
“We are being very cautious with how he practices, and how he does different types of drills,” noted Judson. “And, we’ll be very careful throughout the season with the games, and not overloading his minutes.
“In my opinion, he’s far off from where he was, but I’m pleased with the leadership he brings to the table for our basketball team,” added Judson.
Woodring will start at center for the Wolverines, while 8th-grader Joey Tomasso gets the nod at point guard, with senior Jalen McCarty at the 2-guard, sophomore Caden Hollywood at the 3-guard, and junior Peyton Bowen at the small forward.
“The first few guys off the bench” will be junior Ryan Lambert, who will see minutes at point guard, junior Griffen Stein, who will come off the bench at forward, and junior Aidan Westbrook, who will see time at guard and forward.
Junior Nick VanHouten will vie for time at guard and junior Kobe Decker will vie for time at small forward. Senior Austin Ellers will vie for time at forward.
Judson said Tomasso is the first 8th-grader to play varsity in his 17 years on the Waverly sidelines.
“I’ve only had four, maybe five, freshmen play up on varsity for me, so this is definitely a first,” he said.
Tomasso answered the challenge this fall as the starting quarterback on the football team. Judson said the hoop season will present another set of challenges.
“There’s more of a mental aspect … he has all the tools, it’s just learning the speed and the physicality of the game,” said Judson. “And, understanding different nuances, like where we want the ball, and how we want to get it there.
“He’s something else for only being in 8th-grade,” noted Judson. “He’s far beyond where I thought he would be right now. He just gets it, he’s one of those kids who really understands sports.
“I have a lot of trust in him, but Ryan Lambert started a lot of games for us (at point guard) last year, and could potentially start there throughout the year if we go though some growing pains with Joey, which we’re going to and I have to be patient with that.
“So, it’s reassuring to have a very good point guard in Ryan Lambert coming off the bench,” Judson added.
Judson believes the strength of this year’s team could be its depth.
“Aidan Westbrook and Griffin Stein could easily be starting for us, but they don’t know the our system quite as well, and maybe aren’t quite as comfortable playing with some of the guys we’ve had playing for the last couple years.
“I think our strength in numbers is one our biggest strengths this year, but we also have some very interchangeable parts,” he noted.
“I think we’ll have guys coming off the bench who will have better games than some of our starters,” added Judson. “That’s something I’m pleased with.”
Despite Woodring’s return to the paint, Judson is a bit concerned with his team’s rebounding.
“I’d say defensive rebounding when we’re playing small is a concern,” he said. “We don’t have anyone over 6-foot-1, other than Scott Woodring, in our starting line-up … rebounding the basketball has been a concern all preseason long for us.
“When Scott is not on the floor, or if he happens to get banged up, we’ll need guys to step up with some confidence to score the basketball,” said Judson. “Scoring has been a concern when Scott is not on the court.”
Judson, however, believes his team is better prepared to play without Woodring this season.
“I think a lot of our younger guys who were sophomores, and are now juniors, like Ryan Lambert, Peyton Bowen, and Kobe Decker were able to gain that varsity experience early on in their careers, and it’s going to be valuable for them this year. I think that’s going to be huge for them.
“We have a totally different team than we had last year, with Griffen Stein, Aidan Westbrook, Joey Tomasso, and Nick VanHouten, to go along with the guys returning from last year,” he added.
Judson notes the Wolverines are also still adjusting to life without Dylan Ward.
“Dylan Ward was the Player of the Year in the Valley last year, averaging 16.5 points and 12 rebounds per game — that’s a huge loss for us,” he said. “He made it look at easy at times when Scotty was playing, then he really took off in the second part of the year when Scotty got hurt.
“He got us some easy baskets with his athleticism around the rim, and we’re not getting those easy baskets right now,” continued Judson. “It seems like it’s a struggle for us to score, if Scotty’s not scoring, unless it’s a kick-out three.
“We have some work to do at the offensive end,” added Judson. “I do like where we’ll at, but I thought we’d be a little bit further along than we are.”
Waverly’s non-league slate includes games against U-E, Troy, Chenango Forks, and two in the Valley Christmas Tournament.
“The fortunate thing about our schedule is that we have a lot of flexibility now that we have a 14-game league schedule, so we’re able to pick up five games.
“In my opinion, Troy is one of the best teams in the NTL this year, if not the best,” said Judson. “U-E is a Class A program and will be a challenge for us, and Chenango Forks is a good Class B program.
“We’ll open up with Towanda in the Christmas Tournament, then play either Sayre or Athens,” added Judson. “Our non-league is very competitive, and it’s a nice mix of teams.:
ON THE IAC SOUTH LARGE SCHOOL DIVISION: “Watkins Glen won the division last year, and returns just about everyone,” said Judson. “They were young last year, and they’re still somewhat young, and have a lot of talent in (grades) 9 through 11 right now.
“I would think they would be the favorites in our division right now,” noted Judson.
“Across the board in our league, I think there’s a lot of parity. Aside from us, I don’t think there’s another team that stands out,” he continued. “I think Notre Dame is in a rebuild. Edison has three very good guards, but I don’t know if they have the depth to go with them. Newark Valley’s first five is very good, but I don’t know who they have beyond that.
“I think it’s going to be any team can beat anyone on any given night, and it’s going to come down to the last two weeks of the season,” added Judson.
ON SECTION IV, CLASS B: “Seton Catholic probably has one of the best backcourts in the state, but I don’t think they have as much talent around them as they usually have,” said Judson. “They have to be one of the favorites.
“Norwich also has a very strong team coming back,” he noted. “Chenango Valley and Susquehanna Valley are going to be good, and Owego lost quite a bit, but they’ll still be good.
“All those teams are really good this year, but I’d say Seton Catholic and Norwich are the teams to beat,” Judson added.
IN PHOTO: Waverly’s Scott Woodring.
Print Friendly Version