Falcons looking to improve from tough 2016-17 season
By David Yarger
In basketball there are five starters and usually seven people to come off the bench. If one player is having an off night, the team looks to pick that one player's spirits up. The 2017-18 Niagara-Wheatfield basketball team is all about team unity and togetherness.
At a recent practice, during various drills, if one player was struggling the other 12 on the roster were there to motivate their teammate.
Coach Erik O'Bryan praised his team for how together they've been at the start of the season.
"I think the big thing we've been building on is the chemistry," O'Bryan said. "No one's left behind. When someone is finishing a drill, all the guys are there cheering each other on so they finish. You're not done till everyone is done and I do like that enthusiasm from the guys right now. They're playing as one."
The Falcons are coming off a 5-16 season where they finished seventh in, what was, a tough Niagara Frontier League. The NFL is regarded as one of the best divisions in Western New York when it comes to boys basketball. O'Bryan said it's a journey playing in the division and he's hoping his team will improve from last year's finish.
"It's a marathon, not a sprint and right now we're just in the November. I like what I see from our guys and I like what I see from some of our seniors. I'm thinking if we can just live in the moment and just worry about what's in front of us, at the end of the day I think it will all take care of itself," he said.
In basketball, the best teams seem to enjoy being around each other, and O'Bryan said the team was together throughout the summer and really worked hard in the offseason.
"I think they're extremely upbeat," O'Bryan said. "We had a great summer playing together. The guys really enjoy each other's company. The St. Bonaventure camp we stayed overnight, kids stayed in the dorm for a team camp. We've been working out twice a week Saturday mornings. I think the guys have really put the time and the effort in and they're excited about the season. Seven days in, I can't equate to wins, but I can equate to they're a lot of fun to coach."
O'Bryan added he could sit around all day and just hang out and coach his team, and that's what high school basketball is about; "teach kids and hopefully they give the same commitment back," which he said, the team has shown that commitment.
Returning for the Falcons includes senior guards Anthony Ruffino and Ben Devantier, as well as junior point guard Davon Ware. O'Bryan said he's excited to see what the three can do, but knows basketball is a team game, and he didn't want to add any stress to his players.
"I'm not gonna put too much pressure on one kid right now. That's why we've been talking and really preaching that this is a team of 13. If adversity hits one night or someone's in foul trouble, I expect the next guy to step right in and compete," O'Bryan said.
O'Bryan said he wants to keep things simple for his team, so it plays in favor to his team's athletic ability, and if the team keeps grinding the way they are, results should be favorable.
"I think if we continue to work every day, stay together as a group and really dial in to what we want to do, I think we'll be happy with the results when it's all said and done," O'Bryan said.
The Falcons remain focused on winning games and O'Bryan said he hasn't heard one person talk about individual stats.
"The guys are here for one reason and one reason only; to win basketball games together. I haven't heard one guy talk about 'I need this many rebounds, I wanna score this man, I need this many shots.' We're trying to get a way from the 'I need,' we all need a lot of things, but here we're 'what we all want' and 'what do we need to do' and I think that's the mentality they've all taken," O'Bryan said.
The Falcons' roster includes seven juniors and six seniors. Juniors include James McVay, Cam Miller, Jordan Parks, Evan Rohring, Jordy Smith, Zack Stanley and Ware. Seniors on the roster include Nick Cloudin, Devantier, Jared Domaradzki, Ruffino, William Scullion and Tom Sommers.
The first regular season game is on the road versus NFL foe Kenmore East at 7 p.m. on Dec. 4.
Coach Erik O'Bryan addresses his team in a recent practice. (Photo by David Yarger)