Despite slow start, Utica basketball hopes to finish strong

By: Mark Vest | Shelby - Utica News | Published January 23, 2013

 Utica’s Blake Vallie takes a shot during a game against L’Anse Creuse North.

Utica’s Blake Vallie takes a shot during a game against L’Anse Creuse North.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Last season, Utica’s boys basketball team was 18-3 overall and captured a Macomb Area Conference White Division championship.

As impressive of an accomplishment as that was, coach Gerry Kraemer knew his team was going to have a different look when it returned for 2012-13 season.

Losing 10 seniors and having no returning starters would result in some bumps in the road for any basketball program, and that is the position Utica finds itself in.

At press time, the Chieftains were still looking for their first win and were 0-3 in the MAC White.

Despite the team’s slow start, Kraemer is not ready to give up on the season. He said he has seen improvement and believes the Chieftains can still make some noise before the season comes to a close.

“We feel good about the remaining 12 games this season, plus districts,” Kraemer said prior to the Chieftains’ game against Grosse Pointe North Jan. 17. “It’s just a matter of us being inexperienced (and) learning how to play at the varsity level. The newcomers that came up from the JV, they’re getting acclimated to the game, too. Our work ethic has been pretty consistent, which I’m proud of the kids for.

“We feel we’re getting better. Sometimes you have to experience some hard times before you experience the good ones. I think that’s what we’re going through right now,” Kraemer said.

Another reason for Kraemer’s optimism is the positive attitude he believes his players have displayed.

“We have good kids in our program,” he said. “They’re good people. They’re good students in school, and they’re hard workers on the floor. I think it’s all going to play out for them, not only on the court, but I think in life, too.”

Kraemer is counting on solid senior leadership from Matthew Frick and James Krajenke.

“They both work hard in practice,” Kraemer said. “They’re displaying the commitment that we ask of our players. I think they’re there every morning getting some extra shooting in — setting an example for the young kids. “

Frick has given some thought as to what his goal is for his team, going forward.

“Get better,” he said. “(Be) one cohesive unit on offense and defense.”

While Utica may have to go through some growing pains this year, Kraemer believes the experience could be beneficial for the future of the program.

“We have nine kids returning for next year,” he said. “We have nine kids getting a ton of experience for the remaining twelve games we have, plus next year. Our JV team has seven freshmen on it. So our program is very, very young. We’re inexperienced, but gaining it on the fly. We’re sticking together, and I think, in the long run, it will be well worth it.”

The Chieftains are next scheduled to be in action at 7 p.m. Jan. 25 in a road game against Warren Mott. Utica’s next home game is scheduled at 7 p.m. Jan. 29 against L’Anse Creuse.