Fordland boys basketball got in its first games of the summer at last week’s Tri-Lakes Shootout hosted in Strafford with some definitive goals in mind.
“I feel like we really have to improve our rebounding,” Eagles head coach Brett Rippee said. “We’re so undersized, we’re going to have to develop the mentality that we all have to rebound and that we need to be aggressive doing it. That’s something where, if we don’t compete on [the boards], we’re not going to compete on the scoreboard, so I’m worried about it. We lost our leading rebounder that averaged nine a game, and he wasn’t a tall kid at 6-foot-1, but he was a rebounder. I don’t know if I have any of those guys [coming back].”
Cohesion when Fordland has the ball is also of concern to Rippee. “Offensive efficiency...we don’t play together offensively right now,” he said. “That’s something that we have to develop over the summer. Moving off the ball, doing all the little things; if we don’t, we’re going to struggle to score points.”
The Eagles finished last season with seven wins, but just one in their last 13 contests. They were hit somewhat unusually with a quarantine in the second half of the campaign.
“Coming out of New Year’s, we played Conway [Jan. 4], and the next day one of our players is feeling rough and tests positive; they were in school for like an hour and it quarantined the whole team, but I was masked [for the game] so I wasn’t [forced to] quarantine. That same day, the first day of the semester, we had two foreign exchange kids come. So I coached two foreign exchange players while the rest of the team was quarantined.”
He added, “I think COVID really hurt us being a young and immature team that hadn’t been through that full four-month season, that grind. I know a lot of teams probably say that, but we really didn’t respond well to it. We kind of had to start and stop, and that hurt us trying to get started back up in late January. We didn’t start playing well at all again until the last week [of the regular season].”
Despite the rough sailing, Rippee still saw positives. He indicated that sophomore Logan Swanson really came on in the second act after being thrown into the deep end of varsity as a freshman, and also complimented the play of Jack Coursey, who will be a senior this upcoming year.
“Jack had never played high school basketball until last season and got quarantined, but he was really coming on and had a good last two weeks of the season,” Rippee said. “He’s our best defender. Those two, Jack and Logan, they’ve really developed and seem more confident in scoring, which we have to have. Logan’s been shooting the ball really well.”
Summer could be key for Kadin Kindall, too. After a scoring average in the upper-teens early in his junior year, film got out on him that made life tougher for him.
“They didn’t know who he was, and it was ‘stop No. 5’ after about the eighth game of the season,” Rippee said. “He started to draw the other team’s best perimeter defender and they didn’t let him shoot 3s anymore. He can create his own shot and has a great step-back move, but teams made him put it on the floor and that wasn’t his strong suit. I’m hoping he makes the adjustment to score tough points when he’s being guarded.”
Another to-be senior, Buddy Penberthy, is an undersized post who's had a strong summer and will be counted on to step up.
It seems that having a more expansive summer slate will allow for the kind of growth needed for Fordland to have the chance to edge toward or above .500 in 2021-22.
“Our summer last year was very limited, but this year we’re also going to Mansfield, Morrisville, Sparta; there’s more opportunities,” Rippee said. “For a young team like us, that’s crucial.”