Western Courier

Wright ready for action

Devon Greene, Assistant Sports Editor

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The Western Illinois University Leathernecks men’s basketball program had a disappointing season last year, but head coach Billy Wright is looking toward the future and hoping to improve his team.

“I thought we had a really good summer,” Wright said. “We did a great job of getting in the weight room and getting bigger, faster and stronger to improve upon our game.”

Western has a relatively young team this season with only three seniors on the roster. However, the Leathernecks do have 10 returning players who picked up playing experience last season and will be expected to take leaps forward this year.

Developing the young talent as they come into the basketball program is a huge focus of Wright and his coaching staff.

“We coach one through thirteen and we develop one through thirteen so that when guys do graduate or when guys get hurt, it’s the next man up,” Wright said. “We take pride in our player development so when we have one or two guys graduating, the next two or three guys can step up.”

The basketball team lost two of the best players to ever wear a Leatherneck basketball uniform last season in Garrett Covington and Mike Miklusak, but Wright is confident that his returning players and new additions can fill the shoes of the Leatherneck greats.

“From the inside, we look at Brandon Gilbeck, who has had the most experience in that position. We expect him to get some more scoring this year and play defense. We’ve seen that he’s a tremendous shot blocker and he does that already.”

Size is going to be a huge factor for the Leathernecks this year. They have versatility and depth that Wright is excited to showcase this season.

“I like the fact that we can go big with traditional power forwards with 6-foot-8 Charles Gavin, the junior college transfer will help out down low.” Wright said. “And obviously, the big man down low Brandon Gilbeck can hold down the middle. I like that we can play small ball with four guards. Looking at our schedule we feel prepared for either this or that and we feel we can adjust how we want to play if we want to go big or small.”

The men’s team was ranked eighth in the Summit League preseason poll. Most teams and coaches would use that for motivation to prove people wrong, but Wright and his team didn’t even have to look outside of their own campus to find  the motivation that they were looking for.

“We’re inspired by what the women did, and how they did at Western,” Wright said. “We were picked eighth in the Summit League but we don’t focus on that at all. All we have to do is look across the hall at what the women did. For me, that’s inspiration enough.”

It’s been a long summer of hard work and preparation for the basketball team, and Wright and his guys can’t wait to get back in Western Hall and in action in front of all the Leatherneck fans.

“We’re ready to play,” Wright said. “Our guys are excited and hopefully we get some good fan support on opening night.”

Twitter: devondeadlysins

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The independent student newspaper of Western Illinois University. Serving Macomb since 1905.
Wright ready for action