Rejuvenated Rangers embrace new rolesDecember 19, 2018
By HENDRIX MAGLEY
If you’ve watched any Forest Park boys basketball games this season, the first thing you may have noticed is how different this year’s Ranger group looks from the team that went to the Class 2A state finals a year ago.
With junior starting guard Isaac Uebelhor currently out of the lineup due to injury, the Rangers only have one player in the starting five that was a starter in last year’s title game (sophomore forward/center Curt Hopf).
After Uebelhor missed his first game of the season last Saturday against Northeast Dubois, freshman Drew Howard took his place in the starting lineup. While Howard has been a member of the Forest Park rotation since the season opener against Crawford County, he admits his first career start was a little bit nerve-wracking.
“I was extremely nervous,” Howard said with a laugh. “Isaac (Uebelhor) is a good player, I don’t have the talent that he does but I just tried to follow (the lead) of other people, dish it off and give them opportunities.”
While he only scored two points in his first career start, he did finish with three assists and three steals. He’s averaging 3.3 points per game and 1.3 assists per game through the first six contests.
Howard and sophomore Wade Leonard are the two first-year varsity players on Forest Park’s roster this season. Leonard, who missed his entire freshman season due to injury, has also been a member of the Rangers rotation for the majority of the season.
First-year head coach David Welp has been impressed with the work ethic he’s seen right away from both Howard and Leonard.
“They’ve taken in the offense very well, they have learned what we’re trying to implement and they’re using their ability and quickness to utilize it in a way that fits them,” Welp said. “Each day they’re learning — it’s a process.”
While Howard felt the nerves in his first career game, he said they slowly started to go away once the shots started to fall — as they say, shooters shoot.
“After I scored my first bucket, I was like ‘Alright, I can hang with these guys’,” Howard said. “I’ve just tried to stay calm and do my own thing.”
Howard has also looked to guidance from some of the coaching staff and also the upperclassmen on the Rangers varsity roster.
One of the players that’s been a vocal leader for Forest Park this season has been senior forward Garrett Betz.
The main lesson that Betz has tried to teach the younger guys? Patience.
“I’ve just been trying to give them confidence through practice and telling them they’re going to be good,” Betz said. “It’s not all going to come in your first year, if you work hard and put in the time then you’ll keep improving.”
Betz is in his second year as a varsity player for the Forest Park boys basketball team but this season has been the first year where he’s had a sizable role in the rotation.
He’s often the first player to come off of the bench — he had a season-high six points in the win last Saturday against Northeast Dubois and is averaging two rebounds a game. Betz has embraced his bench role and is hopeful that he can bring a spark to the team whenever he steps out on to the court.
“I’ve never been a true starter but everyday I come to practice and you want to be that guy to help start the game off right,” Betz said. “I do my part to be a role player and do whatever the team needs in crucial moments.”
Betz isn’t the only player in a new role for the Rangers this season. Seniors Aaron Hurst and Reid Steffe have stepped into starting positions this season while sophomore Simon Jacob has also entered the starting lineup while senior Garret Jochem has been able to enter the game as a sparkplug off of the bench.
“These guys are just understanding their roles,” Welp said. “Whether it’s just to set screens, rebound the basketball or make the right pass — these guys do their job, whatever we ask them to do.”
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