Eagles expect to be in the mix in new Section Three home

By on December 3, 2014
 Cocalico junior Tucker Lescoe is back to lead the Eagle attack.

Cocalico junior Tucker Lescoe is back to lead the Eagle attack.

The 2014-15 boys baketball season will be one of change for Cocalico, which drops down from Section Two to Section Three. The Eagles traded places with Garden Spot for the next two-year cycle because of realignment numbers.

As for the team itself, the Eagles are coming off another successful year in which they finished 12-11 and made a trip to the L-L League playoffs.

And while Cocalico must replace five key seniors, and make up for the loss of injured guard Dante Haines, who had knee surgery after getting hurt during football season, the Eagles do have a nice mix of five veterans returning which should speed along the learning curve for the new members of the team.

Heading the list of returnees is 6-foot junior guard Tucker Lescoe, who is arguably the best returning player in the L-L League. Lescoe, who enters the year with 588 career points, averaged 17.4 points per game a year ago to lead the team.

Also back are seniors John Waskowicz (5.1 ppg) and Austin Noll (4.9), as well as juniors Ian Arcudi and DJ Fabiani.

Cocalico figures to be small, but athletic, and should be ready to challenge for one of the top spots in Section Three.

Recently, Ephrata Review Sports Editor Todd Ruth caught up with nine-year head coach Travis Wealand to discuss the upcoming season.

The following is a transcript of that conversation:

Todd Ruth: Looking back on last year first, you guys fought hard down the stretch to earn an L-L League berth. What were your feeling on how that played out last year and how it all played out?

Travis Wealand: I feel like our team continued to get better throughout the season. We had some injuries to deal with early on, but guys stepped in and got extra minutes which I think helped them down the stretch. Playing a lot of close games which it seems to always be the case in the L-L League, helps you try to get over the hump. If you are in a few of those close games it helps to get you through them toward the latter part of the season I felt we were able to do that. We were pleased with that, had kind of a difficult road bump with Districts, and all of the snow and everything that happened to our team last year, but overall I thought we had a productive year.

TR: You guys always seem to be at least in the hunt. How have you guys been able to maintain that level of success?

TW: I think it starts with the players and their families. There is a lot of support that needs to happen for the players to get to the things that we offer them. And our coaching staff, all the way down, we try to be consistent and keep things at least similar for kids from one grade level to the next so that we are not starting over every year. We are just adding on hopefully. I think that has helped to us being consistent and obviously the kids and their work ethic is the most important factor. They put in the time and are committed. and I think as far a the Cocalico District, we share so many athletes between the teams, and the winning amongst the other teams really helps to bring that attitude to the basketball court as well. The guys expect to win, and they work hard to prepare to win. I think that’s really a great trait of our district.

TR: moving on to this season, once again you were hit hard by graduation. I think you lost five seniors. What are your feelings on entering the season with so many new faces?

TW: It’s definitely different. One year to the next, it changes a lot, and we’ll miss all those seniors from last year’s group. We had a few of those guys for multiple years at the varsity level, which is hard to replace. We got a lot of young faces in the gym, guys who have the ability and want to step in, so they’ll get some experience through just playing this season. But we do bring back some guys who do have some good experience so that also helps. While we did graduate five good players, I think we have guys who are ready to step into that role, and they have been doing a nice job so far.

TR: The other big news for your program this year is the fact that you guys are moving to Section Three. Normally that might be a good thing competition-wise, but this year Manheim Central might be the best team in the L-L League, and Lampeter-Strasburg is looking pretty tough. What are your thought on the move?

TW: The move, just kind of based on numbers, is where we’ve kind of been hovering over the last few seasons. We’ve either been just a few students over (the limit) to stay in AAAA and Section Two, or a is the case this time we are just a few under to bump to AAA and Section Three. the competition is going to be good. Whether you are in Section Two or Three, you are going to be playing good teams and good programs every night so it’s not a difference in that aspect. The size of the school are a little bit different…Some of the school we play this year are maybe more comparable to us size-wise, but there is still a lot of good basketball being played in all of the sections. It’s definitely going to be a challenge. And obviously people are pinning Manheim Central as one of the best teams in the league. They got a lot of really nice talent coming back. We’ve always had a nice little rivalry between our school and their school, whether that’s with football or basketball or whatever…that will be a great game hopefully.

TR: I guess continuity-wise, it’s got to be tough to keep switching sections every two years?

TW: It is tricky. you kind o get used to programs and coaches and what they like to do. We don’t throw anything away, and we’ve been around this move before so if the coaches are the same we try to pick up some tendencies from prior times but of course they are going to change over time with their teams so it is a little bit challenging to be bumped up and down but we got great people who are working hard and trying to make it smooth for our kids, and I think they’ll respond.

TR: You’ve been with your team for a few weeks and had a couple scrimmages. What are your early impressions of this group?

TW: I think our guys work really hard and I think that they want to win. They challenge each other in practice and in drills. We are young, so some times in practices we’ll have to stop and slow down a bit and just guide them through situations a little bit more. Even setting up some drills, it takes a little more time, but once these guys have it they are quick to pick it up and apply it. Actually, when I look back on where we were last year at this time to now, we are actually a little bit ahead of where we were last year so it’s neat to see these guys picking things up quickly. It’s a good testament to their character and their attention to detail. I think that also goes down through our program. If you run things consistently, which we try to do, helps with sophomores and freshmen moving up. It helps them to adjust quickly so, so far so good.

TR: You have arguably the best player in the league in junior Tucker Lescoe, who missed the first half of the season last year with an injury. What are your expectations of him from both a leadership and production standpoint?

TW: I think the guys on our team look at the seniors a our leaders first. That’s kind of the way it always is at Cocalico, and we have two seniors, Austin Noll and John Waskowicz, who are doing a good job in the gym, trying to teach the young guys new things and walk them through different steps or different points that we have. I can see those guys talking to younger guys on the side, so they are great character guys, and Tucker falls right into that mix too because he leads on the court by how hard he plays and the things he is able to do, but then also off the court just like John and Austin. He’s a great kid and he is very approachable by the rest of the team. I think they look at him as well as one of those leaders for sure.

TR: Tucker is mentioned among the top players in the league. Can you talk about his game and his progress as a player?

TW: I think from one year to the next, it’s kind of difficult actually because this will be the first season we will hopefully have him from start to finish. As a freshman we didn’t have him the whole time and last year as well, but I think it’s seeing his understanding on the court. we talked last year a little bit about that. He’s like having another coach on the floor. He’s just been in a gym for his whole life and been around basketball and just really understands concepts and how to play. He makes the rest of the guys better. I think that’s been something, to his credit, where he’s getting a lot o guys involved in the offense and looking for his own shot as well but also making sure he’s making the right pass or doing all the other small things that make him a great player. I think that’s a really awesome thing to see when a player develops over the years and tries to be just more well-rounded than instead of being just one dimensional. I think that’s been one of his biggest strengths, just getting his teammates involved and really just being more well-rounded.

TR: Looking at your other guys…who else do you expect to contribute for Cocalico this season?

TW: I’ll start again with the seniors. Austin Noll is a very nice young man on and off the court. He’s a really nice shooter for us. He’s a leader who has really tried to work on doing more than just shooting, which is driving to the basket, making the extra pass to a teammate. And John Waskowicz does all the small stuff. He’s a rebounder. He’ll tick his nose in there to get a loose ball, he’ll take charges…He’ll do whatever is needed and those two guys kind of start the whole thing. Ian Arcudi handles the ball and is a good three-point shooter. He knows when to feed teammates to score around the rim so we are looking for him to contribute. DJ Fabiani is a great on-the-ball defender. He’s really quick with his feet, quick with his hands and gets in passing lanes and really disrupts people. He reminds me a lot in Spencer Moser defensively with what he can do.

Damien Ricks is a new player to us on the varsity level but he’s been in our program. He has improved tremendously from last year to this year. He’ll be an undersized-big man which is kind of what we always have. He’s athletic, he’s strong and is really picking up things quickly. he’s done a real nice job in our two scrimmages playing at both ends. He’s developing into that role and is taking ownership with being a junior but also stepping in and contributing. Moses Ulysses came to us from football so we really haven’t seen him that much but he’s a sparkplug guy who brings high energy. He can score and also defend. He’s pretty athletic so I’m sure he’ll do a real nice job for us on the floor.

John Landis is a junior, kind of a swing guard/forward type. He can shoot a little bit from the outside, likes to dive to the basket, makes the extra pass….he’s very unselfish. He’ll be a nice player to have in the mix. And another junior Jake Fester comes from the football team and gives us some size at 6-4. He can rebound and do some things around the basket.

TR: One guy you will be missing is Dante Haines, who got hurt in football and is out for the season. How will his loss affect you guys?

TW: Obviously I feel bad for Dante. He’s a great kid and our team will really miss him. It’s difficult going from one sport to the next but a lot of credit to him. we’ve seen him in the gym a few times. He hangs around and wants to continue to be involved. He’s a big part of our program, eventhough he won’t be able to participate this season.

TR: Looking at your team, you guys are pretty versatile other than your lack of size. What do you think your strengths are this year?

TW: I think we are pretty athletic overall. I think we are always under-sized but our big guys, and we’re talking 6-1 and 6-2, but they can move and we are going to try to make people defend us on the full court and allow their athleticism to help our team. We have guys that can spread the floor, a couple guys who can dribble and penetrate so I think that will make it tough to guard certain spots. If Tucker is driving the basketball, and if we have a few shooters ready to catch and shoot I think it will cause some problems for some teams. And I think another one of our plusses on the offensive end is that everyone is looking to score and everyone understands their role. They want to do what they can do to help the team. I think they are all kind of buying into that together.

TR: Yeah, you know people are going to try to shutdown Tucker so it’s kind of imperative to get those other guys going…

TW: We talk about those kinds of situations because we know Tucker’s name is out there and people are going to try to gameplan for him, so it’s really an opportunity for him but also the other guys to step up. And what’s really awesome is that they trust each other. If a trap or a double team happens, they are looking to make that extra pass. they have been doing a real good job with that so far this season. We like what we’ve seen so far with that. I think defensively we are pretty quick overall. We’ll be able to get up and down the floor and apply some pressure. Again, size is going to be a factor but in our two scrimmages we’ve been out-sized but we’ve done a nice job rebounding and getting loose balls which are some of the traits you talk about as a Cocalico basketball player. I feel like these guys really respond to that and really work hard to not worry about the size as much and dig in together defensively.

TR: What are the areas where you need to improve?

TW: We are always looking to improve and while we do have some guys back our experience will be something that will have to develop over time. We are looking at two seniors and a slew of juniors. there is some inexperience there and there are going to be ups and downs like in any season. I think as far as improvement goes, I would say just being able to continue to apply, if something were to break down, that we are able to adjust quickly, and I think that comes from experience. I think some of these guys have been around and have played long enough that they will be able to do it. It will just be a faster transition now at the varsity level.

TR: What are your goals for this season?

TW: We never really talk about numbers in terms of wins and loses but we always have our goals of competing for the section title, making districts and advancing…That’s always the goals from year to year, no matter what section we are in.

TR: As far as the section is concerned, everybody is looking at Manheim Central but do you know anything about the other teams and what they have coming back?

TW: I really don’t know a whole lot but I know a lot about Central. We know their coaching staff real well, and I know a little about L-S because we played some kind of rivalry games with them over the years. Those are the two teams I would say I’m most familiar with. Donegal has a new head coach this year so I’m sure things will be different with them. Elco we haven’t seen so much except for the summer a few times, and Northern Lebanon we haven’t seen in a few years. It’s going to be an adjustment period for us for sure, just trying to get re-acclimated to those programs. I would say people across the board would pick Manheim Central as one of the best in the league this year.

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