Rangers emphasizing defense this year

Photo by Corey Stolzenbach/The Herald
Forest Park is going to rely heavily on senior Drew Howard this year. The season tips off Wednesday at home against Crawford County.


FERDINAND — Forest Park’s season opener Wednesday against Crawford County is drawing nearer, and defense is the name of the game as David Welp is set for his fourth season at the helm of the Rangers.

“I think our guys understand that over the last year, past couple years, our defensive intensity hasn’t been where it needed to be,” Welp said. “And I also feel that as a coaching staff, we have emphasized our defensive side of the basketball much more this year than we have in the past, and I feel like our guys have bought into playing very physical and play a very aggressive style of basketball.”

Opportunities also present themselves to a myriad of Forest Park players. The team returns just two starters from last season in seniors Drew Howard and Landon Nalley, as Simon Jacob, Wade Leonard and Blake Hagedorn all having graduated from a year ago. Welp is looking to have Drew’s younger brother Reid, a sophomore, join him in the backcourt.

Forest Park will have situations where it will five guards on the floor, and then there are other times where the Rangers can turn to a big man — like senior Kaden Bowman or junior Clayton Weisheit.

“It just depends on matchups and depends on who’s playing well at the time,” he said.

The Rangers will be counting on defense more than anything this season, and have worked a lot on man-to-man, but Drew is going to carry the scoring load for them. He’s been an All-Pocket Athletic Conference selection the last two seasons, was an honorable mention his freshman year and scored his 1,000th point towards the end of his junior season.

“We look for him to lead our team this year in all areas — on the offensive side, on the defensive side and in transition,” Welp said of Drew. “And I believe that he’s ready to take on that ownership and accountability of being our team leader.”

Meanwhile, Welp hopes Nalley will continue to bring to the table what he has learned the past few years. The fourth-year coach called him a “quiet leader” who leads by example. Fellow seniors Cooper Uebelhor and Nolan Winkler can join Nalley in spacing the court and catching and shooting.

The Rangers are still seeking their first sectional championship under Welp’s guidance, but record-wise, they’ve improved every year — going from 15-10 his first season to 15-9 two years ago to a 16-6 outing last season.

“I think peaking at the right time is having the confidence and believing in each other,” he said. “When teams play well, they have a lot of confidence. And I believe our guys — they have confidence in themselves, we have seven seniors who have played together since they were in third grade. I think they have confidence in each other, they have played together for several years — believing in each other, trusting each other.

“Our motto is, ‘Trust, Toughness and a Team-First Attitude’ and if we follow our motto, we will accomplish a lot of things that we have set out to do,” Welp continued.

The Rangers have opened the season against Crawford County every year since 2009-10, and that trend will continue, as they’re set Wednesday to welcome the Wolfpack.

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