Boys basketball set for intercity


Brianna Hamel

The Wildcats and Pioneers will be back on this court again Monday night

Glenn Kinley, Staff Reporter

After a heartbreaking loss to University High in a winner-take-all final game of the intercity tournament last year, the Normal West Boys basketball team will be back for revenge on Monday in their first game of the season.

The Wildcats will face a tough test against a talented U-high team on Monday. This is the team that senior John Sherman considers the team to beat in the inner city this year. “U-high’s gonna be tough.” Sherman said. “Offensively, we’ll have to break down their zone to beat them,” he added.

After that West will play Central Catholic on Wednesday, followed by Bloomington Friday, and Normal Community on Saturday.

Coach Brian Cupples said there are multiple good teams in the intercity tournament this year. “Bloomington, Normal, and U-high really are all good,” Cupples said.

After graduating 11 seniors last year, the Wildcat’s have some rebuilding to do. However, hope comes in the form of 6-foot-10 sophomore Francis Okoro, who transferred to Normal West last winter from a high school in Tennessee. Okoro, who is originally from Lagos Nigeria, is expected to be a force in the post.

“Francis is the guy everybody’s talking about,” Coach Cupples said, “We definitely can count on him to be a strong inside presence at both ends of the floor” he added.

However, Okoro is not the only player with size on their team. In fact, size might be the biggest strength of this team. With Okoro at 6-foot-10 being assisted by 6’6” senior John Sherman, and guards of Ryan Huber, Kyle Yoder, and Logan Gerwick all around 6’3”, the Wildcats are not necessarily small.

One thing that this year’s Wildcats are, is young. With Okoro being one of three sophomores that are expected to see time on the varsity team this year, and only 5 seniors, 2 of which were not on the team last year,  this team is not quite full of veterans.

This is a feature which could be good or bad for this team. Having started five seniors last year and played four more off the bench, not many of this years 14 man squad received much time.

“It will definitely be a tough adjustment for a lot of these guys to adapt to playing varsity level ball,” Cupples said. He also added that handling pressure could be difficult for such a young team.

However, the team expects the playing they did over the summer to have a positive impact on their upcoming season. Traveling to North Carolina, before playing in three Central Illinois tournaments was one reason that senior Kyle Yoder said, “We have great chemistry.”  “Most of us are good friends off the court too. We have even more players who are willing to play as a team this year,” Yoder added.

Yoder is not alone in his belief that this team has great potential, and despite losing so many from last year, they could come back stronger this year. Sherman also agreed saying, “We play really well together.”

“We’re definitely young,” senior Alex Hoss said. “But we have lots of good underclassmen.”

When asked if it will be hard to adjust to a practically entirely new team this year, Yoder did not deny it. However, what he did say is that, “a lot of guys are stepping up”.

For all the players and coaches, one key goal will be mandatory in order for the team to win games. “We have to feed Francis,” Yoder said.

Hoss agreed that, “getting the ball to the post will be key.”

The adjustment for this young Normal West team could be a tough one, and they’ll find out early how well they have meshed together. However, these guys aren’t worried about that. “I like jumping right into intercity. It’s kind of like an immediate progress check,” said Hoss.