Tonawanda News — TOWN OF TONAWANDA — With three seniors and a pair of budding junior stars, the Kenmore West boys basketball team had a memorable season in 2012-13.
The Blue Devils earned a trip to the Section VI semifinals for the first time in 22 years before falling to Niagara Falls at Buffalo State — Ken West’s first trip to the site since it became the home to the Final Four.
But things are much different this year over on Highland Parkway in Kenmore. Quinton Campbell (13.2 points and 10.9 rebound per game last season), Shay Cuadra and Joe Northrup graduated and left the leadership burden on senior Alex Price, who was a member of the News’ All-Area second team last year.
Blue Devils coach Mike Meetze said everything begins and ends with Price this season — starting tonight when Ken West travels to Daemen College at 8:45 p.m. for a Paster-Cooper Memorial tournament game against McKinley.
“It all starts with Alex. He has been with me for two and a half years and last year he really assumed a lot of the point guard duties down the stretch,” Meetze said. “It’s just going to be about him being more comfortable in the system. He’s a good shooter, a good driver, he’s physical — he doesn’t really have a big weakness to his game. So we’re going to really rely on him to step up, make the big shots and the right decisions. We’re going to go as he goes.”
The Blue Devils will average out below six feet as a team this season, and Meetze said the squad will go about seven players deep early on while younger players work for playing time that are up from junior varsity.
Expectations are high for sophomore guard Terrell Ford, who had a breakout season last year. As a freshman, Ford averaged 5.8 points per game during the regular season, but he exploded in the quarterfinals against Williamsville North. He scored 17 points to lead the Blue Devils to a 56-53 upset win over the Spartans.
Ford said he is excited about the challenge this year and has already assumed a leadership role as an underclassmen.
“This year I’m going to have to be a big leader because we lost Quinton and Shay, and we know they were our main leaders. We still have Alex, but I know I’m going to have to step up and be a leader on this team if we want to go far,” Ford said. “My confidence is real high. During the season last year it wasn’t real high but after the Williamsville North game it’s just continued to get higher and higher. As I continued to work in the offseason, I now know what I’m capable of doing.”
Meetze said Ford is a sophomore in name only. He expects him to be big factor on both sides of the ball for the Blue Devils.
“We’re going to go from an inside-out team to kind of outside-in, and we’re going to play to our strengths. Terrell started last year and I think that experience is going to help him,” Meetze said. “Down the stretch last season we played a lot of small ball because ‘Q’ was in foul trouble. We went with Price, Terrell and Adam (Fron) was the center a lot of the time. That lineup worked pretty well and that’s what we’re going to have to play with. We’ll be much more uptempo than last year.”
After Fron, Price and Ford, Meetze will insert Trent White and senior forward Noah Whalen into this season’s starting lineup. Meetze is hoping Whalen will be this year’s breakout star after having a lot of AAU success this past summer.
“For Alex to be successful we all have to buy in as a team to do the little things. I think we’ll score points and get up and down, but it will be can we stop anybody,” he said. “Teams will game plan for Alex a little more, so I’m hoping with the emergence of Noah and Terrell, I think I have three good outside shooters which I didn’t have last year.”
Tyler Grandits and Laquan Salter will be the bench contributors for the Blue Devils. Meetze said Grandits is a hustle guy that works hard every minute he’s on the floor, and Salter is a defensive specialist who uses his speed to make plays.
“We want to be a run and gun team. We know we don’t have a lot of size and most teams are going to be bigger than us,” Ford said. “So we want to run and score as many points as we can. That’s the game plan. … I’m hoping to see us go real far. I’m pretty sure we’re going to Buff. State again, and hopefully we can make it a step further and win in the next round and go even further.”Follow @tonanewssports and sports editor @MattParrino on Twitter for complete high school sports coverage.