Wildcats ready to take big step forward as new season begins

Courtesy Photo The 2017-18 Alpena High boys basketball team from left to right is: back: Colin Donajkowski, Hayden Goebel, Chris DeRocher, Brand Secrest, Eli Alexander and coach John Pintar; front: Aidan Goike, Walker Martin, Clay Donajkowski, Efe Turaun, Bruz Copping and Kayden Wisniewski.

The time is now for the Alpena High boys basketball team.

After spending the past two seasons learning on the fly with a team full of talented underclassmen, this group has stuck together and is ready to take a big step forward this season.

The Wildcats finished last season 9-12 which was an improvement from the year before. Alpena is hoping for more improvement this season from a roster full of veteran players ready to make an impact.

“We have had young and inexperienced teams the last few seasons, which has been tough, but you can’t rush the aging process,” Alpena coach John Pintar said.

The Wildcats have a roster of 11 players, all of which are upperclassmen as they have eight juniors and three seniors. One of the keys to Alpena’s success this year will be the play of junior Chris DeRocher. This is DeRocher’s third varsity season and he is coming off of a season in which he averaged more than 20 points a game and led Alpena in scoring. DeRocher gives Alpena versatility as he is someone who can play anywhere on the court thanks to his size, length and ability to shoot the ball.

The Wildcats also return their starting point guard from a year ago in Aidan Goike. The junior will run the point for the second consecutive season and Alpena will depend on Goike to make the offense click along with the solid defense he brings.

Bruz Copping is another returning junior who saw a lot of playing time as a sophomore and will be relied upon for his play at both ends of the floor.

Alpena returns two seniors in Walker Martin and Eli Alexander, along with senior Efe Turaun who all will play pivotal roles and will be depended on for their leadership roles on and off the court.

Kayden Wisniewski, Colin Donajkowski, Clay Donajkowski, Hayden Goebel and Brand Secrest are all juniors who make up the rest of Alpena’s roster and will see time this season as the Wildcats have strong depth.

Despite returning several key pieces from a year ago and many players gaining experience along the way, the Wildcats will have their hands full in an always tough Big North Conference.

Many of the top players from last year will return this year and the Wildcats will be tested throughout the season. This season, the Big North may be the most competitive it has been in some time with all of the top talent it returns, but Alpena is among those teams returning top talent.

Pintar believes how his team plays defensively will be the difference as the season goes on.

“We have a good group of kids coming back that have been through a lot in this program. A lot of our kids are now experienced and I think that is going to make a huge difference heading into the season,” Pintar said. “We are ready to compete and this year we are going to have to defend at a high level in order to be successful.”