The Western Michigan Christian boys basketball team hopes to turn the court into a classroom this winter, as the Warriors field one of their youngest squads in recent history.
Second-year head coach Kurt Gruppen likes what he sees so far from his young squad and thinks the Warriors can counter their lack of size and experience with heart and effort.
“We have a hard-working group this year,” he said. “For what we lack in size, we try to make up for it in effort. We will need to use some of our team speed this year to our advantage when the opportunities are there.”
The Warriors only return two players to the playing rotation from a team that went 7-13 last winter in senior point guard Tyler Van Beek and junior guard Nolan Fairfield. Both Van Beek and Fairfield were starters for WMC last season.
WMC will rely heavily on its junior varsity and freshmen team call-ups from last year to make immediate contributions at the varsity level.
Junior Brant Zeerip will likely be a starter for the Warriors, while fellow juniors Tyler Somers, Zach Butkis, Brandon Sytsma, Joe Hain and Hayden Hubers will likely be in the playing rotation for the Warriors after leading the junior varsity team to a perfect 19-0 season in 2016-17.
Sophomores Jameson Goorman and Brandon Fles will be making the jump from the freshmen team last year, and will also look to play important roles on the team this winter.
The Warriors will have to establish an identity early in the season as their schedule leaves no room for error. Non-conference tilts with Mona Shores, Spring Lake, North Muskegon and Oakridge, combined with a tough Lakes Eight slate will test the mettle of the young group.
The ultimate goal of the team, however, is to improve throughout the regular season and be peaking in the postseason.
“We are a very young team this year. We have one senior, seven juniors and two sophomores on the team,” Gruppen added. “Despite being young, we want to be playing our best basketball in February. Our conference will again be difficult, but we believe that we can compete toward the top of our league.”
Courtesy photo: The 2017-18 Western Michigan Christian boys varsity basketball team. Front row (left to right): Jameson Goorman, Tyler VanBeek, Nolan Fairfield, Zack Butkis and Jon Hain. Back row (left to right): Brant Zeerip, Brandon Systma, Hayden Hubers, Brandon Fles, Tyler Somers and head coach Kurt Gruppen.