Gutted by graduation, Eagles look to be in mix under Sigman

By on December 7, 2016
Cocalico’s Aidan Trynosky, who averaged in double figures as a sophomore, is the lone returning starter for the Eagles this season.

Cocalico’s Aidan Trynosky, who averaged in double figures as a sophomore, is the lone returning starter for the Eagles this season.

It is a season of change this year for Cocalico as long-time junior high Coach Seth Sigman moves up to the varsity to take over for Travis Wealand, who coached in the system for 15 seasons, including 10 years as head coach before stepping down following last year’s 18-7 District qualifying campaign.

While the coaching change obviously is big, even more significant will be the change on the court where the Eagles will look to replace seven seniors, including 1,000-point scorer Tucker Lescoe, one of the top players to ever where the Blue and White.

Fortunately for Sigman and the Eagles, the cupboard isn’t totally bare as 6-2 junior sharpshooter Aidan Trynosky, who averaged 11.8 points per game as a sophomore, is back to help lead a young and mostly inexperienced squad in 2016-17.

Another change for 2016-17 is the fact that the Eagles will have a new address, thanks to re-alignment. With the L-L changing from four sections to three, Cocalico, along with fellow former Section Three heavyweights Manheim Central and L-S, move up to a Section Two that already includes upstart teams like Ephrata, Solanco, Garden Spot and Elizabethtown.

While the Eagles figure to be scrappy as always at the defensive end, what will determine just how far they’ll ultimately go will be finding players other than Trynosky to put the ball in the basket.

Senior Nick Monteleone (6-1) and junior Brad Heck (6-2), both of whom saw limited varsity action a year ago, will help, as well as senior athletes Demetri Whitsett (6-0) and Drew Sawyer (5-11), and 6-1 junior Nick Lucky. Also, sophomore Connor Mack (6-0) joins the fray and could fill a similar role as what Trynosky had a season ago.

If everything falls into place, Cocalico at the very least should be a tough out on most nights. At best, the Eagles could challenge for one of the three Section Two playoff spots at the end of January.

Cocalico opens the season Friday at the Hershey Tip-Off Tournament where the Eagles will face the host squad in the opening round, beginning at 7:30 p.m.

Recently, Ephrata Review Sports Editor Todd Ruth caught up with Sigman to discuss the upcoming season.

The following is a transcript of that conversation:

Todd Ruth: So, how have your first two weeks gone as head coach?

Seth Sigman: It’s going pretty well. You know how it is at the beginning of the season…you always think you are a lot better than you are until that first scrimmage, and then the first scrimmage comes and you wake up and realize you got a lot of work to do.

TR: Coming into this season having to replace seven seniors, including Tucker Lescoe…how do you guys go about doing that?

SS: Well, it’s certainly not easy. We have to do it collectively. You cannot replace a Tucker. You don’t have someone in the program that you just can fill in at that spot…that’s not the way it works. We have to do it as a group. We have to do it collectively. But we have some guys that can score, like Aidan Trynosky. He’s back and he’s a big scorer and he’s going to have to continue to be a big scorer for us. He’s already seen over the summer and pre-season that it’s a lot different. He benefited greatly with having Tucker on the floor with him, as far as the shot’s that he got. He’s seeing that when you are the focus of the defense, it’s a little tougher to get baskets and get your points but he’s going to adjust to that and he’s done a good job so far. Everyone just has to keep getting better and buy in to their roles. If we can get five guys that average five points a game, we’ll plug them in there and try to get those points from different places. We don’t have a Tucker, but we have a lot of guys who can play a little bit so they just have to buy in to their roles and do what we are asking them to do and we’ll be fine.

TR: I imagine one thing that helped is the fact that you got the job soon after last season was complete. That had to help smooth the transition a little bit, right?

SS: Well that was really important, and Travis was actually instrumental in having that happen. He kind of went to bat for me, not that anyone didn’t want me to get the job, but we needed to move quickly. He knew how important that was to have that consistency going into the summer. The start of open gyms, and camps and all of that kind of stuff, things that maybe behind the scenes people don’t realize is going on with basketball. Basketball is pretty much year round. There really is no off-season for us. Obviously kids play other sports and that’s different, but we have stuff going on all of the time so yeah, that was really important that we were able to keep several of our coaches from our previous staff in place as well. It really helped us with the consistency for the players. They knew us already and knew what our expectations were going to be. We tinkered with some things here and there but for the most part we were able to keep things pretty consistent for them, and that’s important for the kids and the parents. They already kind of have a good idea what was going to be expected of them.

TR: Since you were already a big part of the program, I’m assuming we can expect to see similar philosophies as with the last staff?

SS: Yeah, we still want to be a tough, man-to-man type of defensive team. And we are going to shoot threes. It seems like we’ve always been that way at Cocalico. You are going to see a lot of similar things in respect to that but you know, Travis preached the man-to-man defensive philosophy and I coached in his program for 12 years and before him I played for Ryan Axe and coached for him a couple years….the Cocalico philosophy is deeply embedded in me so not a whole lot is going to change there. We’ll throw some different stuff out there but at it’s core we are going to remain pretty similar.

TR: Did you always envision yourself some day as a head coach?

SS: Absolutely. Since I played for Axe in high school he kind of opened my eyes up to the possibility that that would be something that could happen down the road. I don’t think I really thought about it until then but once he kind of said that I thought it would be something I’d really enjoy.

TR: So now you are days away from the start of the season. Do you feel your guys are ready to go?

SS: I don’t know as a coach if you ever feel ready. You always feel like, “we need to work on this or talk about that.” You never want to feel complacent but I’m ready to see where we are in a real game I guess is how I’d put it. Scrimmaging is great because it does give you a little glimpse into how your guys are going to react in certain situations, but it’s still not a true, real game. Some guys when they get out there they give you something different than what you see in practice, so you need to see that early on to kind of get a rotation down and see what’s going to happen. But we’re real excited. We play Hershey in the Hershey Tip-Off Tournament Friday so that’s a true road game to start things off. I kind of like that because we throw the kids right into the fire. I know we’ll compete, and that’s what I’m looking for. If we can go out and compete, we’ll let the wins and losses fall where they may.

TR: Aidan is obviously your most accomplished player returning. What kinds of expectations do you have for him?

SS: He has to score for us…I mean that kind of goes without saying. He needs to be a big time scorer for us to be successful. What people don’t realize about him is he is a really good defender too, which we hope we don’t have to utilize every night and every possession because he is going to have to get buckets for us. But he is a really good defender. He works his tail off at all times in practice. He’s just an awesome kid and the type of kid you love having in your program. His skill set, he can shoot, he can get to the rim, he can finish with either hand, he’s a good ball handler…there are not a lot of weaknesses in his game. He needs to continue to improve as a junior to get where he wants to be but we will lean on him heavily, that’s for sure.

TR: What other players are you looking to contribute this year?

SS: We don’t have any other returning starters, but Brad Heck, who is a football player, is a returning player who had some varsity minutes last year…not a lot but he has some experience. And Nick Monteleone, one of our senior guards, played a little bit of varsity minutes last year. Other than that, that’s where our varsity experience starts and ends. We have a lot of guys fighting for minutes and that’s good because it makes practices competitive but again, it’s a lot of unknowns for us once the refs are out there and the lights are on and it’s actual “go time.” We don’t quite know how they are going to react.

TR: What other players do you see competing for minutes?

SS: Well we have a couple guys who didn’t play basketball last year but decided to come out this year…Nick Lucky being one of them. He’s a baseball stud, who came back out. He’s a junior who brings a level of intensity and toughness that we need. He’s a really good defender, a real hard-nosed kid that just plays hard. Austin Harven, one of our senior captains, is a kid that can give us some minutes. He’s a good shooter and a really good leader. He knows the spot that every other person is suppose to be in and he helps get them there. That’s real important with a team like ours where we don’t have a lot of experience.

TR: Anyone else who will be in the mix?

SS: We have probably five or so other kids. Conner Mack, a sophomore, played on my ninth grade team last year and probably could have been moved up but we didn’t because of what we had at the varsity level. He’s gonna have to play some minutes for us. He’s a good ball-handler. Demetri Whitsett is a soccer player, a good defender, great athlete. Drew Sawyer, another baseball player, didn’t play the last two years but came back out this year as a senior. He’s another kid that brings us some toughness. He’s got that senior swag about him. He’s a really good defender and he’s a good communicator and all those kinds of things that are really important.

TR: What do you consider your team’s biggest strengths?

SS: I think our teamwork is what is best so far. I think we are good communicators defensively and we are trying to encourage guys to move together as a team defensively and not just have a bunch of individuals. I think that’s probably our biggest strength right now, just our cohesiveness at the defensive end of the floor. And again, it’s with very limited experience. We’ve only had two scrimmages so come Friday night we’ll find out.

TR: The good thing for you is you have a lot of quality athletes who can really give you some energy when you need it.

SS: Absolutely, and that’s what I think our identity is going to have to be. We are going to have to be scrappy defensively, and a win-in-the-40s kind of team. I don’t think when the game gets into the 60s that will be to our advantage. We are going to struggle to get to the 60s I think but defensively the uglier it is the better it is for us.

TR: What are the areas you feel you need to improve in order to enjoy some success?

SS: We need scorers. We need guys that can put the ball in the hoop consistently. And we have guys that can do it. We have good athletes but it’s very different when you are out there and guys are guarding you from other teams and they’ve scouted our plays and all of a sudden the first option isn’t there. Where do you go? Or we see a box-and-one and they are trying to take Aidan out of it, who is going to be that other guy who can give you 17 on that night? That’s our next step. We got to find our next scorer.

TR: What are some goals that you have set for your first season?

SS: Well moving to the three-section format, three teams from each section make the league playoffs so we obviously want to make league playoffs. There are a lot of really good teams in our section. There is D-One talent all across our section. (Manheim Central’s) Taylor Funk already committed to St. Joe’s, (Solanco’s) Dylan Hastings can play D-One and (Lampeter-Strasburg’s) Ben Sandberg can probably play D-One so it will be a challenge, that’s for sure. But we definitely want to make league playoffs, we want to make districts…those goals never change as far as where our program is at. Those are our goals season in, season out. That’s always what we are striving for every single season and nothing has changed.

TR: Looking at the section, what team’s do you see as the favorites to challenge for a section title?

SS: Other than all of them? Seriously, Manheim Central is going to be really good. Taylor Funk alone makes it really tough to match up with them. He’s so big and can shoot from so far out…he’s just a nightmare match-up. And they bring a lot of guys back, almost everyone. L-S is going to be good. Their junior high program has been stellar the past several seasons. I know that from first-hand experience. Solanco with Dylan Hastings…he’s another kid that’s just really hard to match-up with. He’s tall, he can shoot and go inside. There are just a lot of really tough match-ups in our section. Ephrata is going to be very improved. What Charlie is doing there is really good. They bring a lot of guys back as well and they are scrappy, they play hard…everyone is improving so it’s going to be tough. I like that. I like that so much better than crossing over with some of the smaller schools (from Section Four). Those games are no fun for either side when it’s a 25-point game and nobody is really getting any better. I’d much rather have a lot of tight games than have a lot of blowouts. Our section is going to be a dogfight every night.

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