BY JOHN BOHNENKAMP
FORT MADISON – Ryan Wilson wanted to install a new offense for Fort Madison High School’s boys basketball team.
But it is 2020, it is the COVID-19 pandemic, so that meant having to improvise.
The Bloodhounds couldn’t practice, because the school district had gone to virtual learning, but they could still meet online.
“If you’ve been on one Zoom conference this year, you’ve been on 200,” Wilson said. “We were allowed to meet with them online, so we did Zoom calls.
“There are apps out there where you can draw up some plays, and then share the screen to show them. So we were able to draw up some plays — baseline and sideline out-of-bounds plays. The last couple of meetings, I showed them a couple of colleges who run the same offense we do. I was able to pull some YouTube videos and show them. So they had a little bit of familiarity with it.”
Since the Bloodhounds were able to go back to practice on Nov. 27, the goal has been to get ready in the short time left before Friday’s season opener at Mount Pleasant.
At least, Wilson said, he has experienced players.
“This group has played for quite a few years, going back to youth basketball,” he said. “They just understand the game, and how it works. I was very, very pleased with how they handled things, and how they looked.”
The Bloodhounds have nine juniors and one senior,.
“This will be the most athletic team I’ve had in my tenure,” Wilson said. “They’re going to go play, they’re going to go play hard.”
Junior Dayton Davis has been the mainstay in the starting lineup since he was a freshman. The 6-foot-4 guard averaged 11.4 points and 4.7 rebounds in 22 starts last season.
“He plays like he’s 6-6, 6-7 — long arms, great reach,” Wilson said. “He plays a lot bigger than he is. He can drive to the basket, he can hit the three. Lots of spring in his step.”
Miles Dear moved into the starting lineup late last season. The 5-8 junior guard played in 22 games with nine starts, averaging 5.1 points.
“He’ll be asked to carry the load of being the quarterback, the offensive captain, on the floor for us,” Wilson said. “He’s a kid who can get to the basket, and is strong around the basket.”
There is some playing experience among the other juniors.
Reiburn Turnbull, a 6-2 guard, played in 16 varsity games last season.
“He’s a really, really good shooter,” Wilson said. “I would put him up there as one of the best shooters in southeast Iowa this year. He played a lot, and shot a lot, at the JV level last year. He’s a kid who can get his shot up anytime, anywhere.”
Landes Williams, a 5-10 guard, played in 12 games.
“I’m excited to see what Landes can do,” Wilson said. “He had a great summer with baseball, a great fall with football, and I think all of that is going to build confidence for him. He’s that guy who will do anything you ask.
Tate Johnson, a 5-10 guard, and 6-4 forward Phillip Goldie, played in 12 games last season. Matt Hopper, a 6-3 forward, played in four games.
“Tate really understands everything,” Wilson said. “He’s a physical player. He’s not going to be the biggest kid on the floor, but he’s a kid who doesn’t care what size he is, he’s going to find a way to get things done, whether it’s outwork you or outmuscle you.”
“Phillip and Matt are pretty similar. Phillip will help us out quite a bit defensively. Matt can shoot the ball well from the outside. But those two will be asked to guard some bigger guys, and they can do that.”
Senior Jake Eaves is the tallest player on the team at 6-6.
“Jake is a really, really good shooter, and he can stretch the floor for us,” Wilson said. “He can really help us on the floor with a little bit of size — 6-6 is nice to have.”
Juniors Nathan Wiggins and Leighton Rockhold are on the varsity roster for the first time. They’ll be joined by sophomores Jordan Simpson, Aidan Boyer, Kane Williams and Nathaniel Swigart.
“I think we can go at least nine deep, and maybe more,” Wilson said.
At least the Bloodhounds can work face-to-face now.
“The challenge is going to be what does consistency look like this year,” Wilson said. “Are we going to get all of our games now? Will we be able to keep practicing? We want to keep going as long as we can, to give these guys some normalcy.”