Clean slate, new learning curve Print
Written by MITCH MAERSCH   
Wednesday, 29 November 2017 16:45

With graduation putting a hit on last season’s roster, Grafton boys take the court green, hungry, hard-working

Grafton boys’ basketball coach Damon James didn’t have to look too far in determining who he needed to replace on this season’s roster.
After meeting the requirements for graduation, last year’s team, 13 of 14 members received diplomas and up and left.
“It’s like an NBA expansion roster,” James said.
“It’s all new. Every day is a teaching opportunity for our kids in practice. I wish we had more practice time early.”
James, in his second season as the Black Hawks’ head coach, at least knew the transition was on the horizon after last year’s seniors went 13-11 overall, 8-6 in the North Shore Conference.
BENZSCHAWEl s2112517115 (CR)“We knew this was coming after we had such a great group of kids last year. We knew the roster and what would take place this year,” he said.
At point guard, junior quarterback Brady Ward will split time with sophomore Alex Huibregtse.
“Both those kids played on junior varsity together. They’ve got a good chemistry,” James said.
At the other guard positions, James said he has “a slew of kids who are wings who will share a lot of that.”
In the mix are senior Ayden Edmundson, who joined the varsity roster last year but didn’t see any minutes, along with juniors Jaden Polack and Ben Wilkin, who both played on junior varsity last season, and freshman Bryson Claque.
At forward, 6-foot-7-inch freshman J.P. Benzschawel, whose two older brothers play for the undefeated Wisconsin Badgers football team, “will be playing a lot,” James said. Benzschawel is the tallest member of the team.
Others playing hard include junior Carson Bernd, and James likes the play of 6-5 foreign exchange student Tiago Manfrin from Brazil.

“He’s been adjusting well,” James said. “It’s been a pleasure (to coach him).”
As new as the roster is, the Hawks are continuing to learn about each other. A team strength has not yet emerged.
“That’s a great question. It’s still a question mark,” James said.
“The kids have developed some good skill from the skill development things we’ve done.”
But, as with most teams — even experienced ones — at this point in the season, the defense is ahead of the offense.
“Defensively, our identity is there as far as how we play. It’s a staple,” James said.
James will run primarily a man-to-man defensive scheme that will trigger the offense.
“The kids get that. They understand we start on defense,” he said.
James said he wants to get stops and rebound, but also get out on the break after opponents make shots.
“We don’t have a ton of size so we want to try to get up the court and get some early baskets in transition and, if we can, pull it back out.”
Leadership, he said, will come from Edmundson and Ward, and eventually Huibregtse.
“He’s learning the role of leader and what that entails. He’s trying his best,” James said of Huibregtse.
One plus side to having a young team is that James will soon have veteran savvy.
“We’ll have 80% of the team back for the next year or two or three,” he said. “The future is definitely bright.”
In the meantime, the Hawks will go through the typical stages of development.
“We know that it’s a process and hopefully the community and everybody is patient,” James said.
In the opening game of the season against nonconference opponent South Milwaukee at home on Saturday, the Hawks won, 60-46. They used a 41-31 edge in the second half to pull away.
Huibregtse led with 19 points, including going 4-for-7 on three-pointers, and added six assists and six rebounds.
Benzschawel had 18 points and 10 rebounds.
Wilkin added nine points, going 3-for-4 on threes, and snagged seven boards.
Polack scored eight points. Claque had four rebounds and three steals.
“Guys did a good job early,” James said.
“They came back with a run but we did a good job withstanding that run, which was good to see.”
The Hawks were scheduled to host new conference opponent West Bend West on Tuesday and host West Bend East on Friday.