Michael Heise of UW-Marinette shoots a floater near the basket during the Buccaneers practice on Tuesday. Heise is one of 10 newcomers looking to make a difference for the Bucs this season. <br>EagleHerald/Billy Betts
Michael Heise of UW-Marinette shoots a floater near the basket during the Buccaneers practice on Tuesday. Heise is one of 10 newcomers looking to make a difference for the Bucs this season.
EagleHerald/Billy Betts
MARINETTE - UW-Marinette men's Basketball coach George Hayes put together a talented team last year that had a hard time developing chemistry.
The Buccaneers never found the consistency they were looking for and struggled to live up to their potential.
This year's unit, a group that returns just two players, has an aura about it that personifies a team first, individual second approach and expectations and excitement runs high.
"We had our troubles last year, no doubt about it, but this is a different team," Hayes said. "It starts with our leaders, who have set the tone for where this program should be."
Jonte Wells and Ron Beal are the Bucs' returning starters.
Wells (6-0), a starting shooting guard, was second on the team in scoring and earned second-team all-conference honors while averaging 12 points.
Beal (5-7), the starting point guard, finished the season strong last year and has carried that success over to the new season.
"Ron and Jonte are our leaders and the keys to our success," Hayes said. "We're really counting on those two to set a good example for the rest of the squad."
Wells and Beal have set the tone early of the importance of hard work, not only on the court, but also in the classroom.
"This is a talented team and we want everyone to stay together both semesters," Wells said. "It comes down to putting time in study hall, working with the teachers and showing up to class."
According to assistant coach Bryan Wickstrom, this is a talented group of individuals that is improving as a team and already has the makings of bettering their performance of last season.
"It's a tough task to put a group of guys together and have them play as a team in a short period of time," Wickstrom said. "I think they're buying into the system and showing they want to be successful."
UW-Marinette's big men look to pose problems for opposing teams.
Forwards Casey Wilson (6-4) and Anthony Dunbar start in the four and five positions.
Wilson, a Stephenson High School standout, leads the team in rebounds after the first two games and posted a 16-point, 15-rebound performance in a win over UW-Richland Center on Saturday.
"Casey is a really nice player and is doing a great job on both ends of the floor early on," Hayes said. "He's only going to get better as the year goes on."
Both Wells and Beal expressed their enjoyment in the mobility of both Wilson and Dunbar. The Bucs plan on running and gunning as much as possible and everyone on the court is able to push up and down the court.
Starting at the other forward position is Shaquell Mullin. At 6-2, Mullin can play inside and out and gives the Bucs nice versatility.
Devante Coe (6-0) is the team's sixth man and plays the guard position very well.
Other players off the bench include: Sophomore Michael Heise (5-10), a transfer from Gogebic College; Kevin Juette (6-0) from Chicago; Tom Conine (6-0) from Bark River-Harris; Terrel Pollard (6-1) from Wausau and Gage Raminger (6-0) and Austin Biehl (5-10), both from Marinette.
Heise, a team captain with Wells and Beal, has shown a nice shooting stroke early on and Juette backs up Beal at point guard.
Hayes plans on running a 4-1 offense with four perimeter players and one post player, but with the size that he has, a two-post look will also be used.
"It's hard to tell early on as we're just getting accustomed to one another, but this group is getting better every practice," Hayes said. "We have several scoring options, which is nice, and some good defensive players. I feel this could be a pretty nice team the more we play together."
UW-Marinette hosts UW-Manitowoc at Max E. Pederson Field House for it's first home game tonight at 7:30. The UW-Marinette women play Manitowoc at 5:30 p.m.