December 19, 2018

Webster University men’s basketball team adjusts to Coach Bunch’s new playbook

By: Becky Levendoski

The Webster men’s basketball team has won four of its first six games this season. For returning players, the playbook has looked significantly different than it did in past seasons. Men’s Basketball Head Coach Chris Bunch transitioned the team to a new offensive style which involves getting the ball on the inside to the centers. Bunch also instituted a new playbook this season.

Senior guard Hollis Edwards (left) leaps by Greenville College (Ill.) forward Ron Harris to sink an alley-oop.  Photo by Holly Swan

Senior guard Hollis Edwards (left) leaps by Greenville College (Ill.) forward Ron Harris to sink an alley-oop. PHOTO BY HOLLY SWAN

“I’m not the kind of coach that says ‘I play this style, and this is what I run, and this is how I play.’ I just really try and get the best guys I can and then fit whatever style fits them the best,” Bunch said.

Bunch did not comment specifically about the new play designs. He did say it is a very lengthy process to change the playbook. It is done by first looking at the personnel on each team and designing a play that fits them based on their size and skill level. He then gets together with his assistant coaches and they all decide what would be best for the team. He said when things don’t go well for the team, he is prone to change things up.

The team is more post-oriented this year, Bunch said, which means they have to move the ball under the hoop to utilize the taller players. This is contrary to how the team has played the last several years, where they used a guard-style of play. Instead of the guards taking shots down low like in past years, they are now taking shots from the outside. And taller players are taking the shots from the inside now, said junior guard Ahmad Smith.

Senior center Jarrod Huskey was used to the guard-style of play. The change in play now has the ball going to him and sophomore center Kevin Miller down the court instead of the guards, Huskey said.

“It is more structured to where I have to be at this spot at this time otherwise the play is not going to work,” Huskey said.

Everything in the team’s playbook was scrapped this year, and new plays were designed. There is only one play from the past couple of years that the team still uses, but it had to be changed to fit this year’s scheme, Huskey said.

The past few seasons, the team has run a more guard-oriented style of play because players lacked height, Bunch said. The guards were forced to shoot from within the three-point line. This created a mismatch against teams with taller players.

Smith said this has been a learning curve.  He now has to develop more of an outside shot, since he’s no longer shooting from the rim.

While it is early in the season, Bunch said the team is not yet where he wants it to be.

“It may take a little while for it all to come together, just the way I see it coming together in my head,” Bunch said. “In November, it doesn’t always look like you want it to look. Maybe in February it’s looking more like you wanted it to look.”

Bunch said he wants to work on the little things that help the team get better. However, he said he does not have a specific plan for getting them there.

Screen Shot 2013-12-11 at 1.13.10 AMAssistant Coach Jurgen Rama said the team needs to work on free throws. The team is currently making about 67 percent of their free throws.

“That’s going to be important, and it’s kind of one of the little things we need to concentrate on, but they are pretty easy to fix and that’s what we’re doing every day in practice,” Rama said.

The team has suffered injuries to two key players: junior center Aaron Griffin and junior guard Danny Zehner. Both players were expected to be key components for this year’s team, Rama said.

The expectations are still very high throughout the organization, from the players up to the coaching staff. Miller’s return to the team has been a big help, along with the addition of a few new freshmen, Rama said.

Since Miller’s return to the team, he is leading the Gorloks in points and has scored double-digits in all six games. Bunch said in a previous article with The Journal that Miller is now a better player than he was five years ago when he started at Webster.

They have the depth to overcome those injuries and with their taller players, they are now one of the taller teams in the league.

“The bigger teams tend to do really good in our conference,” Rama said.

This year the conference is tough, and the conference pre-season coaches’ poll has Spalding University (Ky.) to win it. Bunch said, “I think we will be competitive in the conference. I think we have a chance to win it.”

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