Rochester senior Corey Gulledge tracks down a Fraser High player in a Dec. 6 game on the road. Gulledge is being looked at to help lead the team this year as it navigates through a new division.

Rochester senior Corey Gulledge tracks down a Fraser High player in a Dec. 6 game on the road. Gulledge is being looked at to help lead the team this year as it navigates through a new division.

Photo by Donna Agusti


Rochester High boys basketball players taking on new roles this season

By: Jacob Herbert | Rochester Post | Published December 12, 2018

 Senior forward Ryan Noble attempts a shot over a Fraser player. The Falcons fell to the Ramblers 41-34.

Senior forward Ryan Noble attempts a shot over a Fraser player. The Falcons fell to the Ramblers 41-34.

Photo by Donna Agusti

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ROCHESTER — Vance Kirkwood experienced a great deal of success during his first season at the helm of Rochester High boys basketball. His team won a share of the Oakland Activities Association Blue Division title with a 12-2 conference record.

When the Falcons’ season ended in a loss to Utica Eisenhower in the district semifinals, so did the high school careers of two prolific scorers that Kirkwood had on his roster. The second-year coach estimated that LaMarko Gulledge and Hunter Schlatter accounted for 90 percent of the team’s scoring last season, and each averaged over 20 points per game.

On paper, the loss of those two players had hurt the team. At press time, the Falcons sat at 0-3 overall with losses to Warren Mott, Troy High and Fraser High.

But Kirkwood still sees promise in this new team.

“Just ’cause we came off a 16-win season and then we come in and lose our first (three games), that’s easy for high school kids to really get down and say, ‘Oh, this is not our year’ or, ‘This is not working out’ or ‘We’re not good,’” Kirkwood said. “It’s easy to fall into that. I wanted to make sure that’s not where their heads are at. They are in a place where they still can see the good even though we may not have won.”

Kirkwood said he’s still encouraged by the team’s growth this season. He noted how the team is getting better with each practice and how it’s starting to gain chemistry. Kirkwood is learning the players, the players are learning Kirkwood, and the players are learning each other.

“Ideally, it wouldn’t take multiple games to figure it out, but some years that happens,” the coach said. “There’s nothing wrong with it. There’s just phases that different programs go through, and I think that we can still have a very good year.”

With Gulledge and Schlatter leaving the program, other players have had to step into brand-new roles on the team. Players who weren’t necessarily relied on for their scoring have been looked upon to carry the team in that regard now.

Two players who have filled the void for the Falcons are seniors Corey Gulledge, brother of LaMarko, and Devin Murray.

“He has stepped up and had a big role this season,” Kirkwood said of Corey Gulledge. “He has carried a heavy load for the team. He’s done a great job.”

In reference to Murray, his coach said he can contribute in any phase of the game, whether it be points, leadership or hustle.

“He does whatever is needed to make sure we’re at our best each night,” Kirkwood said.

With the success in the OAA Blue last year, the Falcons moved up to the White Division, where the competition is stiffer. Farmington High and Rochester Adams bring talented groups to the table, but the Falcons believe they have the blueprint to hang with those teams based on prior experience.

“We played them both last year, and we know what it’s like to beat them,” Kirkwood said. “We know that it’s not going to be easy, but we know that we have the talent, the ability and the experience to beat them. We’re not necessarily the favorite like we were last year, but we know what we have to do, and we’re excited for the challenge.”

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