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When Oswego East boys basketball coach Jason Buckley stepped away from coaching, eventually becoming the new athletic director at West Aurora, the logical replacement for him was sitting on the Wolves’ bench all along.
Buckley’s assistant, Ron Murphy, is in charge now, and he’s excited for the challenge.
“I was fortunate that Buck let me do a lot of things,” Murphy said. “He was very good that way. I’m doing a lot of the things that I did as an assistant. Some of the administrative stuff is different. But we’re going to defend. That’s not going to change. We’re a little bit different offensively, but that’s more due to personnel. I’m enjoying every minute of it. I’m excited.”
Not much remains from last season’s 14-14 squad, aside from three-year starter C.J. Vaughn. He will be relied upon to be the leader of a team that has several seniors, just not many with much varsity experience.
“C.J. has such a high basketball I.Q.,” Murphy said. “He can do more than score. He rebounds well for his size. He’s a great defender. We’re going to ask him to do a lot. We’re trying to be a little more balanced so we can take some of the scoring pressure off of him.”
Murphy will also rely on Kendall Dorsey, who saw varsity time last year.
“He’s gotten better,” Murphy said. “He had a lot of growth last year, a ton this summer. He’s a kid that will eventually play college basketball.”
The Wolves graduated eight of their top 10 players from a year ago. Seniors Jordan Baker, Nick Craft, Tyler Ross and Scooter Smith will move into more prominent roles this season. Junior James Callegari and sophomore Houston McCullum will make their varsity debuts by contributing in the post, while juniors Manny Contreras and Jeremy Mitchell will add to the backcourt depth.
“The core group right now are seniors, but they didn’t play much,” Murphy said. “We’re going to work harder than everyone else, that’s something we’ll hang our hats on.”
The Southwest Prairie Conference has turned into a solid basketball league in recent years, and this year will be no exception. The Wolves finished 6-8 in SPC play last year. Murphy feels that the Wolves’ crosstown rival, Oswego, is the team to beat this season, led by the dynamic backcourt of Elliot McGaughy and Miles Simelton. Defending champion Plainfield East graduated many key members, but Murphy expects them to still be strong. He also lists Minooka and Plainfield North as teams to keep an eye on.
Despite a lack of varsity experience, Murphy doesn’t expect his team to be intimidated by anything, a trait that Buckley instilled in the program.
“I can’t say enough about him to put us in the spot that we’re at,” Murphy said. “The one thing about our kids that I wouldn’t trade for anything is that they expect to win, no matter who we’re playing. That can be tough to come by.”