GILMAN BOYS BASKETBALL PREVIEW - A positive first week as Pockat takes over Gilman’s rebuild
GILMAN BOYS BASKETBALL PREVIEW
No one knows for certain how long it will take to bring the Gilman Pirates back to regularly winning games on the basketball court.
But one short week into his reclamation project, head coach Tyler Pockat couldn’t be prouder of how it started.
“It almost gives me goosebumps to talk about it,” Pockat said Monday of Gilman’s first week of practice. “These kids worked so hard this week. We had one of the most amazing practice weeks that I’ve ever had with a group of kids. We’re going to do a lot of teaching with them. But just the work they put out in the first week was outstanding. Their effort was unreal. That was really encouraging.”
Without a varsity win in boys basketball since Jan. 12, 2021, the Pirates are the epitome of the phrase nowhere to go but up. Pockat and assistant coach Cory Halida were hired in July to lead that upward climb and it’s something followers of the Pirates believe is coming with some strong younger classes starting to reach high school age.
But right now, Pockat, a one-time Gilman assistant under Robin Rosemeyer for nine years back when the Pirates did win a lot of games in the early 2000s, is focused on bringing out the best in the upperclassmen that remain dedicated to the program. He believes there is athletic talent to work with in his senior through sophomore classes.
“We might not be the most offensively talented team, but we can always play defense and we do have some athletes,” Pockat said. “We’re not ranked the number- one football team in the state for almost 10 weeks by not having kids out there that can make plays.
“We have it. We just haven’t done much basketball. They’re just going to have to learn how to do some things. I think once they do learn, it’s going to be fun.”
Gilman’s first chance to test itself against someone else came Monday when the Pirates scrimmaged at Lake Holcombe. Things start happening for real this coming Tuesday when Thorp visits Gilman for a 7:15 p.m. non-conference matchup.
Two nights later, the Pirates will be in Cornell –– the site of the program’s last win almost 60 games ago –– for a 5:45 p.m. game with the Chiefs that starts a boys/girls varsity doubleheader.
Varsity experience is not something Gilman is lacking. Virtually all of the older players on the roster have spent a year or two, or more, playing at that level.
But Pockat and Halida are taking a start-over type of approach with those players, focusing hard in practice on some basic fundamentals and slowly and simply installing a new offensive and new defensive scheme.
Defense is something Pockat said in the summer was the number-one area to build the foundation on and that hasn’t changed at the start of the season. The Pirates have played a lot of zone defense in recent years. Now the plan is to use much more of a man-to-man approach.
One of Gilman’s strengths could be its size and length, something that will help defensively, especially when it comes to rebounding and limiting teams to one shot. The Pirates bring back seniors Caleb Marion, who is 6-3, and Dalton Wisocky, who is 6 feet. Juniors Brayden Olynick and Max Ustianowski are listed at 6-4 and 6-3, respectively, and junior Trevor Vick also measures in at 6 feet.
“The defense is number-one,” Pockat said. “We’ve got some length. We have some kids that are tall. They have long arms. If we can get them to be in the right spots on defense and use their length, it will be good. We’ve been working a lot on boxing out, just finding somebody. It could be a quick stick to the chest, just one hand to the chest and then you go get the ball.”
Marion is Gilman’s top returning scorer. He averaged 10 points per game last season and Olynick scored 7.2 points per game. Joey Syryczuk lost much of his sophomore season to injury and sophomore Anthony Syryczuk returns after starting as a freshman. Both averaged more than three points a game. Senior Adam Draeger and junior Talyn Podolak are two more upperclassmen on the roster. Vick came on late last year with a couple of eight-point games and an 11-point outing at Colby. Offensively, Pockat wants the Pirates to take care of the ball and slow things down. “They just haven’t had a lot of basketball in their lives,” Pockat said. “I’m keeping it real simple. I’m keeping it as simple as we possibly can so they can see some positives out of it. It’s a simple flex offense that we’re probably going to be running. I think they’re going to grow as a team by learning in this first two weeks, seeing what worked and what we did wrong and didn’t work and we’re going to learn from every situation.” The hope is that by doing some of the simple things better, like limiting turnovers, shortening games by running good half-court offense, defending and getting rebounds,
@ Medford, 7 p.m.