By Troy Sparks

Correspondent

Things could be looking up in a big way for the Whitewater boys basketball team after its first playoff win at home this decade last season against Marshall in the Division 3 regional semifinals.

The Whippets have a trio of senior leadership with some candidates to fill the role positions and a drive to take charge of the Rock Valley Conference.

And how many schools in their conference, let alone in the state, can say that they have a seven-foot freshman on their team?

However, Whitewater coach Dan Gnatzig said he will not build his team around Jake Martin because that would be too much to ask of him, but he knows one can’t coach size.

“He’s a young kid that has a ton of potential,” Gnatzig said. “Obviously, his size is pretty phenomenal for a 14-year old. Right now, he’s starting out practicing with the JV and varsity. We’ll see where he falls.”

In the meantime, Gnatzig will rely on 6-foot-4 senior forward and lead returning scorer Bryce Parrish along with senior forward Daniel Fuller and senior guard and two-year starter Roberto Navejas to lead the Whippets in the upcoming season.

“From last year, we had a pretty good chemistry and we have quite a few guys coming back,” Parrish said. “Losing Logan (Rasmussen), Conner (Laue) and Tyler (Niemuth) was big for us. With our returning starters, we have a couple of guys from last year that will fill some big spots. I think we have a really good chance to do well in conference and get (deep) in the playoffs.”

Senior forward Ben Kloskey will be counted on to step up and contribute and he will take full advantage of the opportunity after not playing much last season. Parrish said that Kloskey worked on his game in the offseason. Parrish has no doubt that Navejas and Fuller will help him guide the Whippets to a winning record. It also leaves the door open for some reserve players to earn minutes on the floor.

“There’s a lot of question marks,” Gnatzig said. “Some guys have opportunities to step up that have been successful at the JV level or played a minimal amount of time last year.”

For Whitewater, everything starts and ends with Parrish, Fuller and Navejas. The role players will help determine if the Whippets will sink-or-swim in the revamped, 10-team Rock Valley Conference.

“Obviously, Bryce is going to play a big role,” Fuller said. “He had some really big games for us last year. We’re really going to rely a lot on our senior class. I think our senior class is one of the best classes we’ve had at Whitewater for a while. We got some good juniors coming in. (Jake) will be up on varsity, I think. We’re just taking it one day at a time right now and we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, I guess.”

McFarland, Beloit Turner, East Troy and Evansville are the teams that Whitewater will compete with for the Rock Valley Conference title. McFarland and Evansville shared the conference title last season with 14-2 records. East Troy was third at 12-4. Whitewater finished tied for fourth in conference play at 7-9 with Edgerton under the six-team Rock Valley. Jefferson was 6-10.

Beloit Turner led the Rock Valley South with a 15-1 record. The Trojans, along with Big Foot, Clinton and Brodhead are now in the Rock Valley Conference That makes the race for the championship more competitive and it could go down to the wire in the last week of the regular season.

Last season, Whitewater played each team in the old Rock Valley South just once. Gnatzig said they were concerned about other teams in the South than in the RVC.

Now with four new teams joining the original six Rock Valley Conference teams, there won’t be any nights off for Whitewater because they will play the other nine teams twice and 18 of their 22 regular season games will be against conference opponents.

The Whippets lost in the 2016-17 regional finals at Lake Mills to finish their season at 10-14.

 
 

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