Central boys basketball returns with new lineup, but same positive approach

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Members of the Central boys basketball team are (front, left to right) Caden Erickson, Dan McGreal, Gabe Erickson, Jordan Everitt, Vaughn Zittergruen, Korey Schantz, Ethan Palas, Elliot Kelly; (back) coach Brady Stramer, Seth Bena, Tate Berns, Ashton Burroughs, Parker Vaughan, Charlie Wiedner, Corey Weber and coaches Andy Seeland and Blake Rodenberg.

By Willis Patenaude, Times-Register


Heading into the new boys basketball season, Central coach Brady Stramer preached a message of positivity, in attitude and approach, and making each day better than the previous, which is one of the team’s central goals. Along with this is the expectation that each player will give maximum effort, both mentally and physically, to overcome inconsistencies that plagued last year’s squad that finished 6-17. 


“Last year, we struggled to put together complete games. There was usually a quarter or two that really hurt us. We will work on being more consistent and finding ways to score when those scoring droughts inevitably hit. Getting to the free throw line more is one way we will try to score during those droughts,” Stramer explained. 


During the offseason, Stramer reflected on the season, on what worked and didn’t work and where things needed to change. One area he recognized was the defensive side of the ball, so, this year, more time will be devoted to defense during practice. The renewed emphasis is a result of Stramer pouring over the statistical data for the previous two seasons and concluding that more defensive success will ultimately lead to more success when it comes to the win/loss ratio. 


However, Stramer also admitted the defensive statistics that suggest more practice time on that side of the ball are a result of offensive struggles, especially related to turnovers and the fast break opportunities Central afforded the competition before the Warrior defense had a chance to get set. 


But solving the turnover problem and helping out the defense won’t be easy, as the team lost two of its primary ball handlers from last season in Hazen Loan and Evan Pensel. Stramer remained positive, though, stating, “I have confidence in our guys to make shots, but our inability to take care of the ball has been, and will continue to be, a top priority and area of focus. We will be looking for our individuals to step up and assert themselves as our primary ball handlers this season. When we are able to do that, our rate of success increases exponentially.”


The Warriors also enter the season having lost seven seniors from a year ago, creating a “big void in terms of leadership,” noted Stramer. That leadership role will require individuals to step up, such as this year’s seniors, Corey Weber, Seth Bena, Ashton Burroughs and Parker Vaughn. Of the four, only Vaughn has starting experience, and while Burroughs was a revelation off the bench, mid-season issues hindered his impact. Still, Stramer is not deterred. 


“The vast majority of the players on our team are upperclassmen that have played for me for the previous two seasons. For that reason, I believe we will not have too big of a learning curve as we start this season [and] I am confident we have members on this team who are ready for that challenge,” Stramer added.


This confidence comes from a group of players Stramer believes are coachable and willing to learn. They’ll have to be if they are to overcome a key weakness: their relatively small size for a varsity level team. Because of this, Stramer will build an offense around speed and ball control. 


In this process, some new faces and a few familiar ones will aid him as well, such as volunteer 2019 Central graduate Andy Seeland and new junior high boys coach Karah Meyer. The familiar faces are Blake Rodenberg, who was last year’s junior high boys coach before taking over as assistant varsity coach for Michael Beck, who stepped down due to a busy work schedule but will stay on as a volunteer. 


About the changes, Stramer said, “coach Rodenberg is familiar with our program and has coached a lot of the underclassmen in both basketball and football, so there are relationships already in place. Karah Meyer is new to the district, and based on my experience with her, she has shown to be extremely organized, detail oriented and has played basketball while growing up. Having Andy Seeland and Michael Beck as assistants is a great luxury for us, as they both have experience with basketball in the Upper Iowa Conference. I believe this will be a good change, as we have more ‘hands on deck’ than previous years.”


When the season gets underway on Nov. 30 against West Central, Stramer looks to remain positive and approach it like he has every other year, with an understanding that success isn’t determined by wins and losses, but how well the players improve as individuals and how they play as a team. 


“We take pride in being a better team at the end of the season than at the beginning, and that is certainly the case again this season,” Stramer said.

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