Lansing boys basketball is coming off a successful year in which the team reached the Section IV finals. However, with four of five starters graduating, it will be a tough task to reach those heights again this season.
After some early struggles and starting the season with one win in six games, the Bobcats are starting to put it together with a big 69-46 win over Dryden followed by a tightly contested 54-53 victory over Trumansburg. Head coach
Joey Volpicelli discussed what’s changed in the Bobcats’ recent performance.
“They started doing things without thinking,” Volipicelli said. “Catching the ball, shooting. Catching the ball, dribbling. Catching the ball, going by your guy. I think early on, it was more of a catch it, stop, think about something, then go. That half a second, it gets you behind. It was just playing basketball, having fun.”
In the victory on Friday, Dec. 20, over Trumansburg, senior Ethan Burt led the way with 19 points. He’s the lone returning starter on the team and has made a huge impact in the early goings of his final season.
“Ethan [Burt] is a proven winner in everything he’s done,” Volpicelli said. “Ethan’s a good kid. He’s smart. He never gives up. He’s always pushing himself and his teammates. He’s someone who, even last year, when we were very senior-oriented, he still stepped up and spoke his mind when it needed to be spoken.”
Another important piece to the puzzle this year is starting point guard Connor Watts. The junior is taking on a position that is unfamiliar to him and will be a key part to Lansing’s success as his comfort level develops.
“[Connor Watts] isn’t really a point guard, but I asked him if he would be willing to give it a shot,” Volpicelli said. “He was willing. He stepped up. It’s been a little up and down for him, but he’s learning on the fly. It probably doesn’t help that I was a point guard when I played, so I’m a little tougher on him. He’s taking it like a champ. He’s gotten better and better every single game.”
One common thread on the roster is the presence of multi-sport athletes. All but two of the 13 players on the roster were on either the football or soccer teams in the fall. Both of which reached championship games.
“Not only are they multi-sport athletes,” Volpicelli said. “They’re pretty successful in all those other sports, too. They know how to win. They came right from those sports into another one. It’s definitely helpful.”
While the roster is a young one, with only four seniors, Volpicelli is only in his second season as a varsity coach. Prior to this, he coached most of the current roster at the JV level. His experience there helps the comfort level of the team as a whole as they make the transition to varsity.
What also helps the acclimation of the new players is the heavy abundance of early season home games. Of the seven games the Bobcats have played thus far, five have been in Lansing.
“It is nice, especially for some of the guys who are in their first year on varsity,” Volpicelli said. “It is a comfort level. Your friends and family and being in your own gym. We practice there every day. But if you look at it reversed, you look at the back end of our season, we have a lot of away games.”
Volpicelli knows that that part of the schedule will be the time that the Bobcats will show what their made of, seeing these early home games as opportunities to get their feet wet.
After reaching the Section IV finals in his first season as a coach, Volpicelli wants even more success despite losing some key pieces to last year’s team.
“I wouldn’t say I felt any pressure [heading into this season],” Volpicelli said. “I felt confident in myself and the players from what I gathered from them. We don’t want to get back to the Section IV finals again; we want to win it. We didn’t win it. We didn’t meet our goal. We feel like we should be there again, just like we felt we should be there last year.”
With momentum building for the Lansing Bobcats, the team will get back at it on Friday, Dec. 27, on the road against Hamilton. Confidence will be a big factor this season as many players get acclimated to the varsity level. With a two-game win streak heading into the holiday break, that confidence is building.
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