The Watford City boys basketball team finished the 2016-17 campaign with a 6-16 record. Fortunately for the Wolves, they are one of the rare programs that doesn't have to replace a number of seniors from the previous year.
Losing only forward Cole McGorman and center Matthew Neprash to graduation, team continuity will be a major driving force for the Wolves through Region 8 play this season.
"We had our struggles, especially with our schedule playing Class B teams and then the Class A teams. A lot of them weren't ready for that moment, they were kind of thrusted into that situation," Watford City head coach Matthew Heier said. "I'd say team chemistry is probably one of our big pros moving forward. All of these guys get along really well. They meshed toward the end of the year last year."
Coming off a season where the Wolves were ten games under .500, Watford City will be looking to be more competitive thanks to a deeper bench. More players capable to contribute will allow Heier to mix and match lineup while allowing others time to rest.
"We should have good depth. We'll have about eight-nine guys who'll be fighting for starting positions and playing time as we go forward," Heier said. "We typically only play around seven, but it kind of depends on the game. When we get into pressing situations, we'll probably play eight or nine. Some of the Class B games, we'll probably still only play seven due to the breaks of quarters and there being less fatigue."
In the mix for playing time is the 2017 NDHSCA Powerade Class AA football outstanding senior athlete of the year, Jaydn Ewing. A defensive lineman on the gridiron, Ewing is an athletic center who is a great rebounder, passes the ball well and can knock down a jump shot from within 10 feet. Joining Ewing from the football field is senior Jarek Hogue, all-state first team defensive selection from the linebacker position. Playing the forward position, as he stands at 5-foot-10-inches, Hogue plays strong for his size, operating out of the post while playing gritty defense.
Surrounding the two big man are junior guards Jessen Homiston, Riley Headings, and Brock Haugeberg. Homiston is a versatile scorer, Haugeberg brings shooting marksmanship with range while Headings initiates the offense as the point guard.
Junior forward Nevada Berquist, junior guard Elijah Brown and sophomore guard Jayvn McGorman are also expected to contribute. But for the Wolves to make any headway this season, Heier believes the team needs to perform better defensively. Watford City allowed 75 points or more 10 times last year.
"We've got to get better on the defensive end. Towards the end of the year, we can score 80 points, but we lost some of those games giving up 82 or 83," Heier said. "That was the case against Stanley in the first round of regionals. A lot of that is just mental lapses and kids physically not up to par with some of the competition, but a lot of these kids are quite a bit bigger than they were last year. Hopeful that development will help us moving forward too."