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 Royal Oak High’s Zach Oxender goes up for a shot Jan. 28 against Livonia Clarenceville on the road. At press time, the Ravens were 3-10 overall and 1-5 in the Oakland Activities Association Blue Division.

Royal Oak High’s Zach Oxender goes up for a shot Jan. 28 against Livonia Clarenceville on the road. At press time, the Ravens were 3-10 overall and 1-5 in the Oakland Activities Association Blue Division.

Photo by Sean Work


Royal Oak High boys basketball building a culture

By: Jacob Herbert | Royal Oak Review | Published February 11, 2020

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ROYAL OAK — Royal Oak High boys basketball coach Aaron Smith admitted that from a record standpoint, the season has not gone how he or anyone else in the program envisioned.

At press time, the Ravens were 3-10 overall and 1-5 in the Oakland Activities Association Blue Division.

The Ravens are a young team, but the fifth-year coach is focused on more than just wins and losses. He wants to build a culture centered around the core values of respect, communication, trust, coachability and unselfishness.

“At the end of the day, I want kids who are buying into the program and the things that we have to do to get better from a skill development standpoint,” Smith said. “Basketball just can’t be something that starts in December and ends in March.”

Smith also emphasized the importance of making school a top priority.

The Royal Oak seniors have played important roles in helping Smith build for the future. On the court, Seth Werner has been trying to keep the mood light by encouraging the underclassmen.

“I’m trying to make them realize how good they are; they have no idea how good they are,” he said. “I’m trying to get them to realize that, because they’ve still got two years on the varsity level.”

While experiencing a losing season, it can be easy to get discouraged. Smith said a player’s character is often exposed when things aren’t going well in the gym. The coach has been nothing short of impressed with the team’s ability to endure tough times.

“As a coach, I love that I’m going through this with a bunch of kids that I believe in,” Smith said. “I think they believe in me, and they understand what we’re trying to accomplish here long term. That’s been fun for me as a coach.”

As the team enters the second half of its season, the Ravens will get a second look at all other teams in their league. This time, they will do so knowing what it takes to play with the best in the OAA Blue.

Ravens sophomore Jesse Hoisington said the team needs to play to the best of its abilities from start to finish.

“A lot of the time it’s starting off games right, which we’re getting better at that. It’s also finishing games,” Hoisington said. “We’ve had those second and third quarters down, but we can’t start and finish games.”

On the court, Smith wants his team to just focus on the little things. He counted a handful of “heartbreaking” losses because of missing free throws and not being able to knock down routine layups.

“We’re getting good looks on the offensive end, but we’re not getting shots in when it matters most,” the coach said. “When games get tough, I think we tighten up a little bit. I think that and turnovers have been the big issues for us this year.”

Despite the current struggles, the Ravens have the utmost confidence in their ability to get the program turned around, and every player on the team fits the culture that the coach envisioned.

“Make no mistake about it, I expected to be better from a wins and losses standpoint,” Smith said. “But I see where we can improve and I see daily improvements that makes me excited, not only for the second half of the season, but more importantly, for next year and the year after.”

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