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Valley Sports Report
TIOGA CENTER — Dave Sickler is one of the best basketball players to ever come out of the Valley, but this year he’s taking on a new challenge as the head coach of the Tioga boys basketball team, and he’s excited about the team’s potential heading into the 2023-24 season.

Heading into the school year, Sickler had no idea he would be coaching.

“It was a sudden thing this fall … (Superintendent) Josh Roe asked me to fill in for this year, and knowing all these seniors, and having Evan (Sickler) there made it an easy choice to do it for this year,” he said.

Sickler is Waverly’s all-time leading scorer and was recently inducted into the University of Rochester’s Hall of Fame for his playing contributions there, but he was hesitant to coach.

“I always enjoyed playing … I was lucky enough to have a knack for the game, and a pretty good IQ for what to do,” he said.

“I was worried coming into this position, ‘if the game gets close am I going to know what play to run, or what defense to play,’” noted Sickler. “I have to say, though, in just a few weeks I feel a bit more confident.

“We’ve only had one scrimmage, but it made me feel better about things,” he added.

Of course, Sickler has given himself quite a safety net in assistant coach Bob Fauver, who has four District 4 titles, and more than 300 wins to his credit.

“I have Bob Fauver helping me out, and part of it was for that reason … he’s a mastermind of Xs and Os and coaching basketball,” said Sickler. “He’s helped build my confidence a little bit.

“I’m sure he’s going to be there every moment to suggest this or that,” he added.

Sickler feels “really good about this team,” and has started to forge his own mark on the program.

“We have top-notch athletes,” he said. “They’re physical, the time they’ve spent playing football, and their time in the weight room have paid off.

“The thing I believe they’ve lacked is some fundamental work,” noted Sickler. “One of my goals coming in is to really hammer down on fundamentals instruction.

“We’re doing a lot of drills that you might say are 5th- and 6th-grade drills, but after a couple weeks of repetitive drilling they’ve shown some real signs of improvement in those areas,” added Sickler.

The Tigers have a wealth of experience returning for the 2023-24 season.

Senior Evan Sickler, who is only 37 points away from 1,000, will start at the 2-guard, with junior Shea Bailey starting at the point, and 6-3 senior Gavin Fisher starting on the win.

“We’re looking to move to Evan from the point to 2-guard, and possibly get him inside with match-ups against smaller guards,” said Sickler.

Senior Karson Sindoni will “play inside and outside”, and 6-4 senior Valentino Rossi will start in the post.

Senior Ethan Landmesser could start at times, and he and his brother, sophomore Brady Landmesser, will see time in the paint.

Freshman Jackson Bombard will see time at the point guard, and senior guard Ben Leary will also vie for time.

Six-foot-four junior Jackson Clark, and juniors Connor Garrity-Vail, and Trystan Barto will also vie for time.

Sickler notes the football players will need a little time to find their basketball form.

“I think all the guys, with having a football in their hands all fall, it’s going to be a while before our shooting form comes around, but it will come,” said Sickler.

“I think some of the guys haven’t reached close to their potential as a basketball player, and as they see they’re getting better, and see they have the ability to get better, I think it’s going to help us out as a team,” he added.

Sickler sites size, athleticism and experience as strengths for his team.

“I think the improvements in the fundamental areas over the course of the season is going to add to how athletic and how physical this team is,” said Sickler.

“I think we could have quite a presence in the post with this team,” noted Sickler. “Looking at a lot of the teams we play, even some of the more athletic teams, aren’t always post-man heavy as their strength.

“I’m hoping our interior post play is one of our strengths … our guards (Sickler and Fisher) can play in the post, and create match-up problems, and we’ll look to that against some of the teams we’ll be playing,” he added.

Sickler’s biggest concern is his team embracing the new coaching philosophies.

“I would say my concern is these guys buying into some of the new things we’ve been doing.

“We’re going into a hostile environment right off the bat (Friday) night at Candor,” said Sickler. “I know they like to play at a fast pace, so I’m hoping the guys can buy into the things we’ve been doing.”

So what type of expectations does Sickler have for the Tigers in 2023-24?

“I want this team to improve every week, make it the Small School championship, and try to get a good seed at Sectionals, then take it one game at a time,” he said. “And, hopefully, through the culmination of a lot of improvement throughout the year, head into Sectionals with a lot of confidence, and try to win as many games there as we can.”

Tioga remains in the Small School Division with Candor, Newfield, O-M, and S-VE.

“I think Candor is the stiffest competition in our division,” he said.

Even though Newfield lost a couple of key guys, they always seem to be able to compete every year,” added Sickler. “They always play hard.”

Tioga is coming off a 14-9 season, and an appearance in the Section IV, Class C Championships. With the addition of another classification, and an adjustment in classification numbers this season, Tioga bumped up Class B.

“I think we’ll fit into Class B just fine,” said Sickler.

“Waverly is going to be good, and Seton Catholic is always good,” he noted. “There are a few other teams scattered in there as well, but I think we have to the potential to play with any of those teams if we continue to work hard.”

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