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Coach sees positive steps by inconsistent Warriors

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Whiteland head coach Matt Wadsworth encourages his team against Franklin.  Whiteland vs Franklin (Saba) Friday, Jan. 17, 2014, in franklin, Indiana. STAFF PHOTO BY JOE SABA
Whiteland head coach Matt Wadsworth encourages his team against Franklin. Whiteland vs Franklin (Saba) Friday, Jan. 17, 2014, in franklin, Indiana. STAFF PHOTO BY JOE SABA

hen Matt Wadsworth took over as Whiteland boys basketball coach in 2012, he knew the program’s recent history.

Now midway through his second season, Wadsworth is the sixth coach in the past 14 seasons. He leads a program that has had only three winning records in the past 21 years.

Clearly, a certain continuity had been lacking.

As Whiteland takes the court tonight at Mid-State Conference rival Franklin, the breakdown of blue-clad varsity players is a hodgepodge of ages: four seniors, a junior, four sophomores and a freshman.

The Warriors, as their 6-7 record would indicate, are established in some areas and still learning the ropes in others. Already this season they’ve managed a three-game win streak and a pair of two-game losing streaks.

What the future holds in terms of victories and defeats is anybody’s guess.

Wadsworth emphasizes the offseason development of players, making sure a coach’s voice is heard all the way down to the elementary-school level and establishing consistency within the offensive and defensive philosophies taught.

Over time, expectations are engrained — with players, coaches and the community. But it’s still a process.

“No. 1, we need some stability. We’ve had a bunch of good coaches but can’t seem to get settled. One of the things Brandon Sorrell did so well was work with the feeder system, and Matt has just taken that and expanded it,” Whiteland athletic director Ken Sears said.

“Matt’s doing the right things. Patience is the big thing around here. That third year is kind of when you start to see the fruits of your labor. People need to be patient to see the results of the feeder system.”

“What you look at is progress from year to year. It’s hard to go from eight wins to 15 wins in one year when you graduate a lot of good players,” said Wadsworth, who watched six seniors depart from last season’s 8-14 squad. “It depends a lot on the cycle of players.”

Whiteland’s sub-.500 standing and the fact the program has captured exactly two sectional championships the past 46 years haven’t dampened the coach’s motivation in the least.

If anything, the opposite is true.

Last week’s 57-40 county tournament semifinal loss to Franklin saw Wadsworth incorporate 5-foot-7 sophomore point guard Terr’e Moss and 6-2 freshman Mike Valle into his starting backcourt.

Not surprisingly, the senior-dominated Cubs extended their trapping 1-2-2 zone defense and wound up creating turnovers against Whiteland’s primary ball-handlers.

Leadership provided by the Warriors’ senior quartet of 6-foot-5 leading scorer John Hubler (15.4 ppg), 6-2 forward Jacob Stidham (9.8 ppg, 8.1 rpg) and guards Trent Sandlin (5.4 ppg) and Jordan Buergelin are a major factor in any progress the program makes.

So, too, will be the offseason development of Moss, Valle, 6-3 junior post player Bryce Staker and other underclassmen.

“I’ve been pleased with our progress, just how the daily expectation in practices is understood,” said Wadsworth, who posted a 55-31 (.640) mark in four seasons at North Posey before leaving for Whiteland. “Now, scouting and game preparation are easier because there’s a lot more legwork your first season.

“Week to week we have to play in attack mode and continue to play during spring open gyms and in summer games.”

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