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BOYS BASKETBALL: The journey starts with a single step

First-year BNL coach Matt Seifers watches Isaiah Stockman work on a ballhandling drill during the first official practice for the 2016-17 season.

First-year BNL coach Matt Seifers watches Isaiah Stockman work on a ballhandling drill during the first official practice for the 2016-17 season.

BNL, under new direction,

opens the official practices

for intriguing 2016-17 season

By Justin Sokeland

TheHHCSports.com

The whirlwind courtship and hiring of new Bedford North Lawrence coach Matt Seifers was followed by an intense month of summer practices, games . . . and then an eternity of waiting. Four months dragged on forever, even worse than the presidential campaign.

Now, finally, the real work begins. The Stars, along with the rest of the state, started their official practice sessions for the 2016-17 season on Monday afternoon as Seifers and his newly-structured staff welcomed 44 athletes (in four grades, some better represented than others) to the opening day of an intriguing winter.

So many questions surround the program right now, and there aren’t enough days until the season opener to answer them all. What’s the new system going to look like? Who steps into the void left by 8 seniors? How many games will the Stars win? All will be addressed, in due time.

BNL started with the simple stuff. Drills, more drills, even more drills, for two-plus hours. These first few days, designated as tryouts, are not thrilling. But they are important.

BNL freshman Brayton Bailey shows his dribbling skills during the first day of practice.

BNL freshman Brayton Bailey shows his dribbling skills during the first day of practice.

“The way things are structured today, you don’t have time to mess around,” Seifers said. “The energy was fantastic. The kids were excited to be there, so it was a good start.”

In reality, practices started in June. Seifers conducted 17 introductory sessions that month, then worked with approximately 25 kids during the conditioning phase of the preseason.

“A couple of the assistants made the comment that it felt like we’ve been practicing for three months,” Seifers said. “We haven’t been, but the reason we pushed so hard in June was we literally picked up today where we left off.

“The in-between is awful. Always is. The time you get to spend with individual players, in training development, is wonderful, but it just drags on.”

BNL has to hit the floor running. The timetable is short, with the annual intrasquad scrimmage set for Saturday, followed by the IHSAA-sanctioned scrimmage at Columbus North on Nov. 17, and then it’s the debut with Brown County on Nov. 22. There’s a lot to do in that brief span.

“We’ve been writing down every thing we think we need to teach them,” Seifers said. “Little things, points you have to stress and teach. We have a list of about 240 right now, and if you look at two weeks to teach all that, you’re scared to death.”

Sophomore guard McCall Ray will be one of the few Stars with varsity experience.

Sophomore guard McCall Ray will be one of the few Stars with varsity experience.

Now if that total seems inflated, consider BNL’s unbelievable youth. Of the 44, only two seniors and four juniors were counted for tryouts, and that handful could be whittled. That means Seifers and his assistants (Greg Burton, Zack Robbins, Brandon Stroud, Braden Knight and Frank Decker) will be doing a lot of babysitting duty. When the final varsity roster is announced, it’s going to be top-heavy with underclassmen. The combined ages of the eventual starting lineup might not hit 80.

BNL lost 87 percent of its offense from last year’s 14-11 team. Only two players with measurable varsity experience return, and they split time with the junior varsity. Many people are anxious to get a look at a freshman with a familiar, famous last name, but team leadership will be a bigger issue.

All the upheaval, all the sweeping changes, all the rebuilding could mean challenges ahead. Seifers realizes that better than most.

“We have a calendar, a timetable of what we want to look like in March,” he said. “In these two weeks, it’s a couple of plays here, defense there, then the next day review those and add one more. All of that is a ladder of what we want to do.

“The soap and towel scrimmage, we might not be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. We won’t look real good, we might not look real good against Brown County because it going to take a little time.

“I know everybody is excited, but they’ll have to temper that enthusiasm a little bit. They’re going to see kids play extremely hard, with a ton of passion, and not look very good sometimes. But that will start to shift. They’ll grow into their roles, and we’ll mature as a team. By March, I think we’ll scare some people. The future is going to be very exciting.”