Consistent improvement key for Panthers

by Greg Ceilley of The Review staff

GAGE NISCHKE (right), is one of seven returning letter winners for the Plymouth boys basketball team. Nischke, a senior forward, earned the team’s Sixth-Man Award last season. – Review file photo GAGE NISCHKE (right), is one of seven returning letter winners for the Plymouth boys basketball team. Nischke, a senior forward, earned the team’s Sixth-Man Award last season. – Review file photo PLYMOUTH – Working hard and improving on a regular basis will be crucial for the Plymouth boys basketball team which lacks varsity experience but shows good promise.

“The keys to our season will be bringing a high level of effort to practices and games, putting in the effort needed in order to compete and being enthusiastic as both a team and as individuals,” said new Panther head coach Tim Schultz.

“For me, the goal for each season always remains the same: get better every day and to be playing basketball at a higher and higher level each game.

“I’m excited for the season to get going. The conference has changed and our schedule is challenging,” said Schultz who was a varsity assistant for the Panthers the previous two seasons.

PHS moved from the Eastern Wisconsin Conference to the new East Central Conference this year.

He pointed out the Panthers’ strengths and weaknesses:

“A willingness to learn and work hard to improve. We are an athletic team that needs to improve our fundamentals daily. Having to replace five starters and lacking varsity experience will present some challenges,” said Schultz.

The Panthers lost all five of their starters to graduation off last season’s squad which finished second in the Eastern Wisconsin Conference with a 10-4 record and was 14-9 overall. However, PHS does return seven letter winners – senior guards Layton Albright and Ben Potrykus, senior forwards David Hassel, Will Hunter, Gage Nischke and Tyler Moegenburg and junior guard Alex Shutter. Nischke earned the Panthers’ Sixth-Man Award last season.

“We have a very balanced lineup with a number of players who will see significant playing time but lack significant experience,” observed Schultz.

The coach pointed out the key players he expects to lead the team this season.

“The returning players with the most varsity experience such as T.J. Moegenburg and Gage Nischke will be important leaders, especially early in the season,” said Schultz who replaced Butch Cain who stepped down after last season to take the assistant coaching position for the UW-Sheboygan men’s basketball team this season.

Schultz was asked if there are any varsity newcomers who have impressed him in the preseason.

“Being a new head coach and implementing things which are different from in the past, I view all of the players as newcomers and have been impressed with all of their efforts up to this point,” he said.

The Panthers’ roster is bolstered by several players off last season’s junior varsity team which finished first in the EWC with a 13-1 mark and was 17-5 overall.

“Offensively, I want to get up and down the floor. If you look at the history of the teams that I’ve coached, we’ve run, we fast break and we want to make it exciting to play and watch,” said Schultz, a former head boys basketball coach at New Holstein and Sheboygan South.

“Defensively, we’re really looking to play a good, solid man-to-man, and trap and press. We want to mix it up.”

The coach thinks Ripon is the favorite to win the ECC championship. The Tigers were 21-4 and advanced to the Division 3 sectional semifinals last season. They placed second in the Eastern Valley Conference with a 14-2 record.

Ripon is led by 6-foot-7 junior forward Bennett Vander Plas who averaged 16.7 points per game last season.

Schultz expects Waupun, the 2014-15 EWC champion, to also contend for the ECC title.

“In one word, the new conference will be a ‘challenge,’” said Schultz.

The Panthers will host county arch-rival Sheboygan Falls in their season opener Tuesday night, Nov. 24.

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