Sunday, October 23, 2016

Core group and depth two more keys to success for Wagner

Corey Henson is among leaders of an experienced Wagner group as he enters his junior season. (Photo by David Saffran/Wagner College Athletics)

By Jonathan Reyes (@werdynerdy)

Whenever every new season is fast approaching in mid to late-October, basketball coaches know every team is at the same place. They have a vision as to where they should be, and work toward reaching that point.

For a second time already, and the 2016-17 campaign hasn’t even begun, Wagner head coach Bashir Mason referenced the 10-win 2014-15 season when he had seven new players -- five of which were freshmen. He said it was difficult starting all over again from the ground up because coaches and players alike were learning new things.

Now he has what he calls a “core group” that not only gives him and his coaching staff a feeling of comfort, but it extends to the rest of the players, both newcomers and returnees. In the situation the Seahawks are in, Mason said the older guys can help coach the younger ones so that the majority of the team is aware of how everything should “look and sound.”

“As I’m getting a little bit older and maturing as a coach, you realize come your first game you’ll be prepared, you’ll get all your sets in and you’ll get all of the things in that you need to,” he said. “The biggest thing is getting better with every practice and game, so coming down the home stretch, you put yourself in a good position to win the championship.”

On recruiting trips, Mason looks for specific players who can fit the Seahawks’s brand and culture of attitude, and that also includes how willing they are to work every day and understand how hard it can be. Shaq Scott, Connor Ferrell, Blake Francis, Jamar Brown and Elijah Davis are still being acclimated, but so far, so good.

“In terms of personally, who those guys are as individuals and socially, they fit into the team perfectly,” Mason said about the five new players. “And now getting it going on the court, things are really competitive. They’re a really, really talented group, probably more talented right now than some of the guys that we lost.”

Besides having a balanced roster, when it comes to underclassmen and upperclassmen, something else in the Seahawks’s favor this year is their depth; they have seven guards, six forwards and one combo. Mason said he’ll play 12 to 13 players out of his 14-man roster throughout the season.

To him, it doesn’t matter if any one particular player hasn’t played in five to seven games, for example. He’ll start or play whoever it is at any point in any game solely based off of the confidence he has in the way he and his staff coach.

“Having more talent and depth makes practices really good and competitive,” he added. “There’s never a day off for the players. A year ago with the team we had, some of our scrimmages in practice were more competitive than the games we played. I’d like to keep that formula to keep the guys on edge to have us going into games really prepared and ready to go.”

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