After back-to-back trips to the Division 2 state semifinals, the Whitman-Hanson Regional High boys’ basketball team is gearing up for a new season.
“Each team has its own personality and its own character and from a coach’s perspective, it’s a lot of fun to figure out what’s the best way to motivate them, how to coach them, how to get the most out of them,” said Bob Rodgers, who is entering his 18th year at the helm of the Panthers.
Key losses from last winter’s club are Lucas Franklin, Nikko Raftes and Luke Tamulevich, all of whom were senior captains and pivotal pieces of that team.
“There’s no question that all of those guys have left a legacy in the program, in terms of how hard they wanted to work and how they treated their teammates,” Rodgers said.
Franklin, Raftes and Tamulevich were three of five players thrust into starting roles at the outset of last season as the Panthers were tasked with replacing their entire starting five. This winter, the Pantherswill only be replacing three starters, as they return Jacob Hanson-Bartlett and Sean Leahy.
Hanson-Bartlett (179 points and 167 rebounds last season) and Leahy (141 points and 154 rebounds) both flourished as first-year starters en route to many postseason accolades. Not only will both be relied on to be the focal points on the court, but off it as well as both have been tabbed as captains.
“You couldn’t have two better kids, they’re both very humble [and] there’re both team-first guys,” Rodgers said. “Both of them are multi-faceted players, great leaders and good at both ends of the floor.”
As for who will join them as starters is still to be determined at this point. Rodgers said one idea that he is toying with is starting a bigger lineup than in previous seasons.
“This year’s team, we’re a little bit longer than we’ve been in year’s past,” he explained. “We have several kids who are over 6-foot-4 and we could put maybe four of them on the floor at the same time.”
Rodgers said he is also flirting with the idea of playing without a point guard, something he did in 2010.
“We’re looking for a point guard to kind of emerge and right now none of them have shown me that they can talk enough on the floor, they don’t talk to their teammates enough, they don’t communicate, they don’t get us into our offenses like we want to,” Rodgers said. “You need somebody who’s going to be out there commanding on the floor and that’s something that every day in practice we’re hoping to find one of these guys who is going to establish and open their mouth and talk and make sure that their teammates know that we can count on them when they’re on the floor.”
One of the Panthers’ strengths last season was their ability to knock down the 3-pointer, which was fueled by sharp-shooters Raftes and Tamulevich. Rodgers said that despite W-H’s increased size this season, the program is still brimming with excellent shooters who can connect from beyond the arc.
“We’re going to definitely use the three, you can’t win in high school basketball if you don’t hit the 3-pointer, there’s just no question in my mind that you can’t win without it,” Rodgers said. “I think people will realize we’re more balanced then we’ve been in the past.”
The Panthers will open the season at Bridgewater-Raynham on Tuesday, Dec. 12 at 6:30 p.m.
“I just hope we’re super boring, that’s what I tell my guys all the time, I just want to be boring,” Rodgers said. “I just want to do all the fundamentals right, I want our guys to out-execute the other team and just be working together as a unit better than the other teams that we play.”