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Bulldogs basketball ready to run Class B gauntlet
December 02, 2016 Frank Marquez   

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Frank Marquez/Gering Citizen Members of the Gering boys’ basketball team include, from left, in the front row: Emanuel Campos, Xavier Horst, Logan Moravec, Tanner Wengler, Dylan Radzymski, Tommy Ganos and Trey Winkler. Second row: Cody Ferguson, Kyle Schroeder, Alex Duncan, Dalton Scott, Jake Rocheleau, Walker Cook and Nick Watkins. Third row: Tyler Fultz, Riley Schilz, Keaton Ebbers, Christian Rogers, Tyler Pszanka and Quinton Janecek.

The last remaining Gering Bulldogs players the night after final cuts on Friday, Nov. 18, stood in the Gering High School gym early the next morning, giving their undivided attention to instructions given by long-time basketball Head Coach Randy Plummer, who was focused on running drills that emphasized fundamentals – short of dribbling around folding chairs.

The usually closed practice revealed the serious approach that Plummer – who has coached basketball for 38 years with 11 of those years as head coach – takes with young men, who are courageous enough to endure a relatively rugged schedule during the course of roughly three months, from December through February. Gering’s formula had allowed the Bulldogs to see relative success last year, evidenced by closing out the season with a 15-9 record in Class B, and being nipped in a few close games.

Last season, the Bulldogs practiced “stressing defense over offense and that defense leads to offense,” Plummer said. “We spend way more practice time on defense and learning to be physical. “We don’t change the practice philosophy. We rarely, if ever, scrimmage. We work on the smaller parts of the game, like setting proper screens, shooting technique, boxing out, hedging picks, etc. Working on the small parts leads to a better overall game.”

This year, Plummer, and his assistant Freshman Academy teacher Steve Land, who won an award for Coach of the Year in football this past year, will rely on several players with varsity experience. “There are eight guys who earned letters last year. That will help us early on,” said Plummer. “As far as the outlook, we have a very difficult schedule. It is hard to predict how we will do. It is up to the players, and how bad they want to work, risk, and sacrifice to win games.”

According to Plummer, Land has been coaching since the 1980s and does not understate his value. “(Land) has plenty of experience and knows the game well.” Volunteer assistants Armand Castaneda, who has coached for 15 years, and freshman coach John Boswell, who has about five years under his belt, round out the coaching staff.

“Boswell takes on the role of motivator and gives me another opinion of what we need to do in various situations. Overall, the coaches at Gering High School are working as hard as we possibly can to make our athletic programs something the community of Gering can be proud of,” Plummer said.

The Bulldogs style of offense of a staid and steady half-court game or a fast break run and gun may well depend on the opponent. Plummer said, “We would always like to get easy baskets by fast breaking, but the truth is, you have to be able to grind it out in the half court to be successful in Class B,” adding that the guys who will reside at the core – the players who will be turning the gears and pulling the levers – and most likely to contribute, include Trey Winkler, Tanner Wengler, Jake Rocheleau, Christian Rogers, Keaton Ebbers, Alex Duncan, Dylan Radzymski, Tyler Pszanka, and Dalton Scott. All of them are the returning letter winners.
Last year, Gering took several top-notch opponents to the brink, including rivals Alliance and Scottsbluff. They lost several key seniors, but several underclassmen gained a wealth of experience, which they will bring to the expected highly competitive matchups in one of the toughest Class B conferences in Nebraska.

Los Angeles Lakers Coach Luke Walton has got the team, a team with such a rich history, whose past rosters are dotted with legends, back on track with a group attack, saying he wants 300 passes per game. Establishing a similar approach, Plummer said, “I agree with Coach Walton, that passing helps promote team unity and purpose. We don’t set goals that specific, except that we want to out rebound our opponents every night.”

Though every team member’s contribution counts, a team cannot thrive or even win without a strong bench or the so-called sixth man – that player who excels beyond his place in the pecking order, or has special skills that can give a team a boost while the starters are resting. Plummer didn’t name anyone specifically coming off the bench, only time will tell. Games, versus rehearsals, can spur a player to rise to the occasion. There may be those occasions the sixth man outperforms the starters, exceeding expectations. “We have several sixth men right now,” Plummer said. “Usually, we try to play eight to nine guys, (giving them) meaningful playing time in varsity games. Someone usually surfaces as the next guy in line, and sometimes, he moves past guys ahead of him who get complacent.”

Plummer’s philosophy toward the game has developed over the almost four decades of coaching, enough to know and to have cemented the belief in how the sport transforms the kids he coaches. He wants “to get the most out of every athlete; to help them realize that what they are really preparing for is life; to focus less on wins and more on the process; to try to play as many guys as possible in a game; and to always keep pressure on the ‘starters,’ by having someone right behind them who wants their job,” he said.

Part of the success of any team relies on how well they work together – padding statistics and showboating doesn’t exist in Gering basketball. Instead, “team chemistry is built through a bunch of guys facing adversity together and having them respond together. We have a few guys who seem to have taken a leadership role on this team. Strong leaders make better teams.”

That’ll be wise for his players to remember because as Plummer put it, “Our main competitors are everyone on our schedule. Seriously, we don’t have an easy game, ever.”
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