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Prep boys basketball: New look, same tradition for Trojans

Brian Korthals/Daily Globe Members of the Trojan team take some three point shots during practice last week.

WORTHINGTON — Coach K has arrived in Worthington.

No, not that Coach K. Not Mike Krzyzewski, the famous men’s basketball head coach of the Duke Blue Devils.

It’s Jared Keaveny, new head coach of the Worthington Trojans. Keaveny’s last name is much easier to pronounce and spell than the other guy, but some of his WHS boys basketball players have nevertheless taken to calling him Coach K — as in the coach of one of the top men’s basketball programs in the country.

“I’m no way claiming I’m at that guy’s level, though,” Keaveny points out, smiling.

Keaveny comes to Worthington via Campbell-Tintah Public Schools in Campbell, where he coached for seven years. His style is up-tempo, fast-breaking, with high pressure defense and traps. He believes he’s got the weapons this year to make it go.

Returning to a WHS boys basketball program that produced a 17-9 record last season is 6-0 senior guard Marcus Potter, who earned a Southwest Conference honorable mention after his junior campaign. The Trojans will miss all-conference graduates Jon Vorwald and Morgan Traylor, but with Potter they have what Keaveny calls a selfless player who “wants to win.”

Other key players on the 2013-14 squad include 6-2 senior forward Will Dudley, 6-4 senior guard Spencer Grafing, 6-4 junior guard-forward Will Mulder, 5-7 senior guard Jessie Guerra, 6-4 senior forward-center Carter Lindner, 6-4 senior forward Jake Weg and 6-2 junior guard-forward Oliver Wolyniec. Three other players — 5-11 junior guard Logan Thuringer, 5-7 senior guard Ethan Miller and 5-11 junior guard Zack Palmer are vying to get involved in the rotation.

For the Trojans, who play their first game of the new season Tuesday at Fairmont, “rotation” is a key word. Keaveny’s determination to play a fast-paced game requires a lot of trust on the part of the coaching staff — and requires the involvement of many players.

“If you’re going to have an up-tempo style, you’re going to have to have a good bench,” Keaveny said recently in his small office next to the WHS gymnasium. “We just want to create tempo — for us, organized chaos, but we know what we’re doing.”

Potter’s leadership will be key. Keaveny sees Potter, who does many things well, as a tempo-setter. The new coach calls Dudley the “hardest worker” on the team — a forward who can also play the post and a player who does all the “little things,” all the “dirty work” that matter, while serving as an encourager for his teammates.

Grafing will be counted on to provide offense. “He’ll score in bunches if you leave him open,” says Keaveny.

Mulder, as a big wing, can create matchup problems and can be inserted in a variety of spots to take advantage of scoring opportunities. The high-energy Guerra is a strong defender who needs to work on his patience offensively. “Seems like any time the ball hits the floor, he’s the one picking it up,” Keaveny observes from practice sessions.

Lindner provides WHS a big post with nice hands who can shoot from the outside. Weg is another big post who can provide quality rebounding minutes. Keaveny likes Gray’s athleticism and Wolyniec’s intelligence and court presence.

“Coach K” admits his system won’t always run like clockwork. “It won’t always be pretty,” he reminds fans.

Sometimes the play will look a little ragged, but he insists, “it will get cleaner as the year goes on.”

When Worthington players were first introduced to the high-energy system, they wanted to know more. “It’s a good thing when your players start asking questions. It shows that they want to do it right,” Keaveny said.

At the heart of Keaveny’s high-tempo, high-energy plan is creating possessions. Creating more possessions creates more scoring if the shooters are hot. In the past, Keaveny said he hadn’t always had the kind of players to make his system work at full strength. With the 2013-14 Trojans, he believes he’s got them.

“I think we’ve got players who fit what we want to do. We’ve got speed all over,” he said.

Keaveny comes from coaching stock. His father, Joe, has coached since the mid-1970s and continues today at a high school in Wahpeton, N.D. The younger Coach K recalls that in his first year of coaching basketball he was tough on his players, but he has since learned that by becoming more positive he’s gotten more positive results. That’s a lesson handed down to him from his father.

Before every practice, Jared Keaveny says he reads a note his dad once handed to him about the “little things” he does before games. A couple of examples: “I can’t coach every play. If a kid has a bad pass, let it go without saying something. He knows what he did”… and: “Before the game starts I tell the kids to have fun, make a memory.”

Doug Wolter

Doug Wolter is the Daily Globe sports editor. He served as sports reporter, then sports editor, news editor and finally managing editor at the Daily Globe for 22 years before leaving for seven years to work as night news editor at the Mankato Free Press in Mankato. Doug now lives in Worthington with his wife, Sandy. They have three children and seven grandchildren. Doug, retired after a lengthy career in fast-pitch softball, enjoys reading, strumming his acoustic guitar and hanging around his grandchildren. He also writes books on fiction. Two of his stories, "The Genuine One" and "The Old Man in Section 129" have been distributed through a national publisher.

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