Gielczyk: Mt. Pleasant Boys Basketball off to Impressive Start
Picking up where it left off last year, when it finished the season 18-5 and won the district title before losing in the first round of the regional tournament to Traverse City West, the Mt. Pleasant boys basketball team is off to an impressive 7-0 start.
The Oilers started three sophomores and two juniors last year. All of them, as well as their sixth man, return with a year’s experience. That’s led to expectations for another successful season. So far, things have gone according to plan.
Mt. Pleasant started 8-0 last year.
Last year came as big surprise because of the Oilers’ youth, and people didn’t really know who they were.
But they know they’re not going to sneak up on anybody this year. They’re definitely on their opponents’ radar now.
“We kind of figured that we would be improved from last year,” Oilers’ head coach Dan Schell said. “So, on the Tuesday morning after the regional loss all six of my returners were in the weight room with me, not because I wanted to be in there but because they wanted to be in there.
“I have a bunch of kids who play basketball and really love basketball. With three of them being sophomores you just kind of plan on them getting better. They play AAU, and they’re good athletes.”
One of the juniors, a sophomore last year, Tyler Huenemann is a big time college football recruit.
Mt. Pleasant’s biggest strength other than the Oilers’ pure athleticism is their depth. Schell plays 10 to 11 kids every game, and there’s been an influx of players coming off a crack junior varsity squad that went 16-4 last year.
Several of them have been major contributors this season.
Coming out of the Christmas break, when coaches are always concerned about the players’ level of conditioning, the Oilers didn’t miss a beat largely because Schell exercised wholesale substitutions to keep running fresh bodies out on the court.
Their balanced offense is another key.
“We shoot it pretty well,” Schell said. “We can put five guys on the floor that can all shoot. We like to get up and down, and run, use our depth and pick the tempo up a little bit.”
Mt. Pleasant prides itself on its defense. The Oilers run a man-to-man, press the ball defense that quite often creates opportunities to score on some easy baskets in transition.
So far, the Oilers have done a good job of staying solid and sound on defense.
The Oilers have more height this year than they’ve had in the past, according to Schell.
Huenenmann is 6-foot-6 and 230 pounds, and is considered a defensive end type material at the Division I level.
But, the Oilers also have a 6-6 junior Alec Mills and a 6-4 sophomore Josh Schell, the coach’s son that are up. It’s not a ton of size, but enough to give them a solid inside presence on the boards.
Schell says the most vocal leaders the Oilers have right now are seniors Peyton Fountain and Jackson Ostrowsky.
Then there’s juniors Mason Wojtusik and Jo Ostrowsky, the younger brother of Jack’s, as well as Huenemann who have all displayed signs of leadership on the team.
Wojtusik, Jo Ostrowsky and Huenenmann are the team scoring leaders. All of them are averaging in double figures.
“Our guys are pretty unselfish,” Schell said. “They don’t care who scores. Our guys’ goals are to win every game. Now, is that going to happen? Probably not.
“But, I think that’s a goal most coaches have. I don’t think you go in expecting to lose games.”
The Oilers are hungry this year looking to win a third straight district and taking another shot at winning just their second regional championship. The last time they won a regional about five years ago, they made it to the Final Four at the Breslin Center in East Lansing.
Greg Gielczyk is an award-winning sports columnist and sportwriter who worked a total 36 years — interrupted for an 18-month period from 1997-99 — at the Manistee News Advocate as sports editor until 2006 and is now retired. He currently is a freelance sportswriter for the Ludington Daily News. Gielczyk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for story ideas.