NEWBERRY - A winless season can have damaging effects on anyone's confidence, and yet after such a year, the Newberry High School boys basketball team is entering the 2012-13 season with a new coach, new enthusiasm and, hopefully, new results later on.
Joe Rahilly, who was formerly the junior varsity coach and is replacing Jim Mills this season at the varsity position, said that regardless of past seasons, the team's energy has been upbeat.
"Practices have been upbeat, pretty energetic and enthused I would say," Rahilly said. "Of course the team didn't win any games last year, so the expectations right now are to improve everytime we set foot on the basketball court."
Two seasons ago, the team won only two games, but Rahilly sees the past few years as opportunities to adjust how the team sees basketball and not necessarily as a testament of how this season will go.
"I like the kids in the younger, freshmen and sophomore group," Rahilly said. "They have some ability, so hopefully we can start setting a good example of hard work and team defense that will carry us and turn our whole program around to start improving the record."
Rahilly said that he is still unsure as to what freshmen and sophomores will be brought up to varsity, but is equally confident in his upperclassmen regardless.
Dec. 4 - At Pickford, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 7 - At Cheboygan, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 11 - Manistique, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 14 - Rudyard, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 20 - At Munising, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 4 - Rogers City, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 8 - Pickford, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 11 - At St. Ignace, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 18 - At Sault, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 21 - Engadine, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 25 - Cheboygan, 6 p.m.
Jan. 29 - Brimley, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 1 - At Rudyard, 7:30 p.m.,
Feb. 4 - At Engadine, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 8 - At Rogers City, 6 p.m.
Feb.. 11 - At Manistique, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 15 - St. Ignace, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 22 - Sault Ste. Marie, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 26 - At Brimley, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 28 - Munising, 7:30 p.m.
"I've got Jordan Hood, who has been a solid player for us," Rahilly said. "Jordan has really good leadership qualitites and has been a guard for us. The other senior is J.J. Sutton, who unfortunately has an injury right now.
"I'm going to be leaning heavily on Jordan to be the leader on the team. He won't be the offensive star of the team, but I'm hoping that he'll be the sort of heartbeat for it."
With an injured Sutton, who at 6-foot-5 is the Indian's tallest player this season, Rahilly is emphasizing the importance of strong defense, which he hopes will lend itself to an equally strong offense.
"The biggest thing is to get the defensive end of the floor down pat, letting the defense communicate and work together," Rahilly said. "The habits developed there will carry over, hopefully, into some good offensive play."
What it comes down to for Rahilly, however, isn't necessarily having offensive stars or a top-notch defense. He simply wants to find a passion for basketball in his players.
"I'd like to see enthusiasm and passion for playing basketball, whether it's high school basketball or outside basketball, just for the whole game in general," Rahilly said. "It seems like our lack of that enthusiasm has hurt us in recent years. I hope to just get kids liking basketball again."