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December 18, 2013

Fraser basketball forced to grow up quickly

Ramblers going through transition with one senior on this year’s team

By Thomas Franz
C & G Sports Writer

» click to enlarge «
Fraser’s TJ Felder jumps to attempt a shot against Romeo on Dec. 11. Felder, the Ramblers’ lone senior, scored eight points for Fraser.

FRASER — Fraser boys coach Marshall Wandrei knew coming into this season that he would be facing a unique challenge.

Following a string of successful seasons, this year’s Fraser team has three players, just one of them a senior, back from last year’s varsity team, and none of them played major minutes last season.

“We know we’re young with all new starters, almost everybody on the team when they hit the floor Monday night, that was their first time on the floor,” Wandrei said. “We’re playing some pretty good teams, and it’s the beginning of the year. We knew that, coming in, we were going to go through some growing pains.”

Fraser has won a combined 31 games over the last two seasons while sending several plays to play at the collegiate level, so the prospect of this year’s transition is new to Wandrei.

“This is something completely foreign to us. Generally, we do pretty well. I don’t know if we’ve ever been in a situation like this when we have this many guys who are brand new,” Wandrei said. “We’re going to be really good; it’s a matter of when rather than if. There’s only one senior on the team, so whether it’s at some point this year, which we all hope is what happens, or it’s next year, we’re going to be good.”

The returning varsity players are sophomore point guard Sebastian Tavalieri, junior guard Matt Harper and senior guard TJ Felder. Having a point guard with little experience will provide a challenge for the Ramblers early this season, as they play a difficult preconference schedule.

“Sometimes, we lose track of it; Tavalieri is only a sophomore playing point guard, and we’re playing upper division teams right now,” Wandrei said. “It’s going to be a challenge, but we’re hoping that it makes us better moving forward, so we need to handle that fine balance between losing our confidence versus we have to play really good teams so we can get better, and we’ll have to learn from it.”

To compound the lack of experience, Fraser also lacks height in the post positions. With the tallest player standing at 6 feet 4 inches and only two others at 6 feet 2 inches Fraser will have to work hard to make up for that height differential against most other opponents.

To combat its lack of a true big man inside, Fraser will run its Princeton-style offense. However, given the complicated nature of the system to begin with, Wandrei said that patience will be needed as his team picks up the scheme.

“We’re trying to do it in a logical, simple progression, and every time when it looks like we got it, we get into a game situation and the mentality changes. In the heat of the moment, you forget how to read passing lanes; you forget how you’re supposed to move,” Wandrei said. “We run Princeton regardless so that they learn, from an intellectual perspective, this is how you play basketball. You have a passing lane, a backdoor cut — you’re handing off and passing.”

Defensively, Fraser will be featuring a mix of man and zone defenses. Given the lack of height, rebounding remains another aspect of the game that Wandrei hopes to see progress in before league play starts in January.

“We need to see progress on the boards defensively for sure, and offensively, it’s the same thing to take mini steps forward to get some ball movement, to get the ball inside and get reversals,” Wandrei said.

In the first week of the season, Fraser dropped contests to Utica Ford, Romeo and Roseville. The Ramblers will travel to Dakota on Dec. 19.

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Thomas Franz at tfranz@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1040.