Tonawanda News — North Tonawanda boys basketball coach Ryan Mountain has adopted the mantra, “Now is the time.”
”The perception has been that this is a nice young team and next year we’re going to be really good. We want to get away from that,” he said. “That goes against everything we believe in.”
It’s going to be an adjustment early on for the Jacks, who graduated three first team All-NFL players in Corey Mis, Ryan Bradt and Corey Pietkiewicz. Last year’s team won 13 games and lost in the sectional quarterfinals.
Things got even tougher when returning starter Ian Gilhousen received the news he’d be out of action until late December. So Mountain is hoping his young squad — highlighted by sophomores Chris Woodard and Nehemiah Stone — can steer the ship until Gilhousen returns.
It all starts on the defensive end, where the Jacks play an intense style. Players try to clog passing lanes and the team’s quickness allows them to turn the tables quick and get out on the break.
”It’s chaos, any way you look at it. Any good defense you want to create chaos and we do that, we just do it in a different way,” Mountain said. “Ian is a huge loss for us. When he gets a weak side rebounds we’re gone. He runs a 4.3 and he can come down and flush it. It’s going to be tough without him.”
But Mountain is excited about this young group of players. Usually he has to go out and get all his players motivated to play summer ball — last summer his players came to him. He said that if they can develop a rebounding mindset and dedicate themselves on the defensive side of the ball, they should be a tough group to deal with.
”We must play within ourselves and we must remain confident,” he said. “That confidence must remain real, it can’t just be a mood.”
Mountain is excited about Woodard’s potential and the way he carries himself on the court.
“We’re extremely impressed with Chris’s leadership and mental toughness,” he said. “He doesn’t carry himself like a sophomore, he carries himself like a senior. He has a natural feel for filling an areas and knows where he needs to be. ... There isn’t much he can’t do at this stage, but I believe he can get better and the sky is the limit.”
Stone is a speedster and he’ll run the point for the Jacks. He plays with a lot of energy, his motor never stops, Mountain said. Joining Stone in the backcourt is junior Joe Piotrowski who played in a limited role last season as the backup point guard.
Junior Christian Lemke and one of two sophomores — Donovan Book and Adam McNeil — should round out the starting lineup, but Mountain is expecting a number of his young players to contribute. Senior Tyler Walker comes off the bench and Mountain said his leadership skills are invaluable. Juniors Michael Awad and Alexander Bille will also see playing time this season.2012-13 NT Boys Hoops Schedule Nov. 30 at Amherst Tournament TBA Dec. 7 Tonawanda 7:30 p.m. Dec. 11 Cleveland Hill 7:30 p.m. Dec. 14 Niagara Falls 7:30 p.m. Dec. 18 at Ken West 7 p.m. Dec. 21 Ken East 7:30 p.m. Jan. 4 at Lockport 7 p.m. Jan. 8 Nia.-Wheatfield 7:30 p.m. Jan. 11 at Lew-Port 7:30 p.m. Jan. 15 Grand Island 7:30 p.m. Jan. 18 at Niagara Falls 7 p.m. Jan. 25 Ken West 7:30 p.m. Jan. 30 at Ken East 7:30 p.m. Feb. 1 Lockport 7:30 p.m. Feb. 5 at Nia.-Wheatfield 7 p.m. Feb. 8 Lew-Port 7:30 p.m. Feb. 13 at Grand Island 7 p.m. Contact Sports Editor Matt Parrino at 693-1000, ext. 4117 and find Tonawanda News sports on Twitter @tonanewssports.