The Woodland boys basketball team did not make the giant leap it was hoping for during the 2022-23 season. The Warriors did, however, take a significant step forward.
With another similar stride this winter, seventh-year head coach Connor Kaminke and his Warriors could be looking at the program’s first winning season in more than a decade.
Last season’s 9-21 record (2-6 in the Tri-County Conference), while definitely not what the Warriors were aiming for, was a four-win improvement over the year before and more than the team won the two previous seasons combined. And all but one player from that roster returns.
“I think we bring back like 86 or 89% of our scoring from last year,” Kaminke said. “We lost our lone senior, Carter Ewing, who was a big part of the team, but we’ve got some guys who are going to step up and fill his shoes.
“We’re essentially bringing back four out of five starters, and our fifth guy was essentially our sixth man last year.”
Those four returning starters include Jonathan Moore (8.4 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.8 steals per game last season), a Times All-Area honorable mention and someone coach Kaminke called “the heart and soul of this program for the last four years.” Back in the starting lineup with him is senior Kenny Eutsey (1.0 ppg, 51.9% field-goal percentage), last year’s leading scorer Connor Dodge (11.7 ppg) and junior Nick Plesko (7.9 ppg, 4.1 rpg).
The returning sixth man is senior sharpshooter Tucker Hill (7.7 ppg), with Logan Steinquist and the Follmers – Brayden and Isaac – other seniors expected to figure heavily into Woodland’s main rotation.
“I’m excited for our seniors,” Kaminke said. “These kids have put themselves in position for this year since this senior class came in as freshmen. They came in, bought in and did things the right way for four years now.
“It’s going to be exciting to see how it pans out for them.”
Sophomore backup point guard Noah Decker, junior guard Connor Decker, junior wing Quentin Porter and junior post Zandar Radke are expected to contribute for the Warriors. There are opportunities to earn court time for sophomores Jaron Follmer and Nolan Price along with junior Kyle Bliss on a roster Kaminke says is the deepest he’s had in his years.
“Hopefully we can play fast and be able to use our depth a little bit, get some guys some extended breaks and utilize our numbers,” Kaminke said. “This is the deepest we’ve been since I’ve been here. There are gonna be 13, 14 guys I can live with competing in a varsity game.”
Woodland is scheduled to open the season again hosting its own pool, along with Dwight, in the Route 17 Classic two-site tournament. Success in tournaments is one of the benchmarks Kaminke and his team are setting in hopes this will be a season that’s not just a fitting finale for a hard-working group of seniors but a springboard to sustained success for the Warriors program.
“One of our goals heading into the season are finding a way to bring home hardware – whether it’s a first-place trophy, a second-place trophy, a consolation championship, something – from every tournament we play in this season.”— Connor Kaminke, Woodland boys basketball coach
“One of our goals heading into the season is finding a way to bring home hardware – whether it’s a first-place trophy, a second-place trophy, a consolation championship, something – from every tournament we play in this season,” Kaminke said. “We play in four tournaments counting regionals, with Thanksgiving, Christmas, Tri-County and the postseason.
“I just want these kids to leave this year feeling that they accomplished things we set out to do four years ago. I don’t know if that’s a win total or [bringing] some type of hardware home, if we can get past that .500 mark or beat some of our rivals, if we can finish in the top half of the Tri-County Conference. For me, some combination of those things would be a successful season.”