Matt Wadsworth is no stranger to turning around varsity basketball programs.
At North Posey, he inherited a boys team that had gone 17-45 the previous three seasons. By his second year, the Vikings were 18-3. In his third, they were 17-5.
His four-year record at North Posey was 55-31.
So what does that mean for Whiteland?
If history is an indication, it signals the Warriors — under the first-year direction of Wadsworth — might not have to wait long to break a string of three straight losing seasons.
Although he promises no quick fixes, Wadsworth is encouraged by how the Warriors have responded to the new system. Having rebounded from a 57-44 season-opening loss against Mount Vernon with a 71-60 win last week against Greenfield-Central, they are 1-1 heading into Friday’s Mid-State Conference opener against visiting Plainfield.
“We’ve got kids that are dedicated to winning,” said Wadsworth, who is in his sixth season as a boys varsity head coach. He spent one year at Riverton Parke before his four-year stint at North Posey.
“As a new coach with new expectations, it takes time and patience on the part of players and coaches to make sure you’re on the same page every day,” Wadsworth said. “And they’ve done a good job working to get better each day.”
Wadsworth points to the Warriors’ first two games as an example. Poor shot selection doomed them against Class 3A Mount Vernon. Wiser decisions lifted them against Class 4A Greenfield-Central.
“In Game 1 we shot 25 threes, which is way too many. We didn’t get to the free-throw line because of it,” Wadsworth said. “The next game there was a focus to go inside more. We only shot nine 3’s, but yet we shot 30 free throws.
“So I think that just shows the willingness and eagerness on their part to learn.”
Hastening the Warriors’ learning curve is the return of three of last year’s starers: 6-foot-4 senior forward Kyle Alford, 6-4 senior center Dejan Davis and 5-10 senior guard Austin Fruits.
Those players have reclaimed their positions and have been joined in the starting lineup by 5-10 senior guard Caleb Hall and and 6-2 senior guard Ethan Wilson. The rotation also features 5-11 senior guard Hollie Allen; 6-1 senior forward Nick Woehler; 6-4 junior forward John Hubler; and 6-2 junior forward Jacob Stidham.
Although Wadsworth anticipates adhering to a nine-player rotation, he hinted starting lineups could change depending on match-ups and simply who is playing well.
“I think that’s something we’ll continue to do. Based on defensive match-ups, we will have to change our lineup,” Wadsworth said. “At the same time, the way guys practice (will determine) who plays.”
For the moment, Wadsworth has no complaints about the Warriors’ effort, enthusiasm and willingness to embrace the new system. They finished 10-11 last season, and the new coach is optimistic about their chances of improving on that mark.
“We have solid outside shooters. We’ve got guys that can step up and make shots from the perimeter,” Wadsworth said. “One thing that we learned in Game 1 is that we can’t rely just on outside shooting.”