By Tim Wester
What is the best way to combat a lack of height on a basketball team?
That is the question that Union Grove boys basketball coach Dave Pettit must answer as his team looks to build off a strong finish last season that saw the Broncos win four of their last six games.
In order for the Broncos to take the next step, they must find a way to survive with a small frontcourt. It certainly won’t be an easy task for the Broncos, who compete in the always-physical Southern Lakes Conference. Last year the Broncos struggled against bigger teams, finishing 9-16 overall and 3-11 in conference play.
“While we are hoping to take momentum from last year with our seven returning players, we must find a way to combat our lack of size up front,” Pettit said. “A lack of height is a tough obstacle to deal with, but we will find ways to combat it.”
Senior Matt Nelson, who was the Southern Lakes Conference player of the year in football, leads the way in the Bronco frontcourt. Joining the 6-3 Nelson in the frontcourt are 6-2 senior Jake Hansen and 6-1 senior Sam Blaszcynski, with 6-4 freshman Sam Rampulla also vying for time in the rotation.
“Matt Nelson is a strong kid and a good athlete and a great leader,” Pettit said. “And Jake and Sam may not be the tallest kids, but they make up for it with effort.”
While the frontcourt takes shape, the Broncos’ backcourt will be a team strength.
Junior point guard Jake Pettit is starting his third season as the floor general for the Broncos. Pettit, who is the son of coach Dave, grew three inches over the summer and figures to be one of the team leaders.
“Jack knows what is going on and knows what I’m thinking,” Pettit said. “Jack has played with me all his life and is an extension of the coach on the floor, which is vital for a point guard.”
Jack will be tasked with getting the ball to a strong contingent of outside shooters led by junior Riley Hale, who is coming off a strong second half last season. Cole Beck and Jacob Ross will also provide strong shooting options, with Tyler Gamble perhaps having the best range of the guard corps.
“We should be able to score the ball well with our strong guard play,” Pettit said. “Riley can really shoot and so can Jacob and Cole. And Tyler Gamble is a sharpshooter with range out to 25 feet. Our guard play will definitely be a strength.”
The Broncos will need all the shooting they can get this season against what figures to be a balanced Southern Lakes Conference.
“Burlington and Westosha Central are the favorites to win the Lakes, and Wilmot and Badger will also be competitive with their styles of play, and Elkhorn should be better,” Pettit said.
“We should be in there as well, maybe after Burlington and Westosha Central, there is us and Elkhorn. I would say the Lakes is more balanced than last season.”
With lots of experience and plenty of outside shooting, the Broncos should be a team on the rise this season.