There is a new year and a new start for the Wood River High School boys varsity basketball team, which also means a new head coach.
Last year’s team went through a tough time during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the boys finished the year 0-14 (0-12 Great Basin 7 Conference). However, with such a hard season, it can’t get any worse, and there were silver linings that the team found throughout the process.
For starters, last year’s team was a young squad with most of the offense running through three sophomores and a freshman point guard that took his fair share of bumps and bruises.
This year’s team has a year of growth and maturity under its belt and will look for Juan Martinez’s youthful coaching as guidance. In his first year, Martinez said his goal is to give his players a firm foundation of development.
“We have to have a growth mindset and feed the positive energy,” Martinez said. “There will be a process of growing. We’ve been working together for a while, and I’m excited about where we’re at.”
This year’s squad will feature eight juniors with Owen Stouffer, Dane Malko, Mosi Slotten and Korbin Heitzman being the glue that sticks the team together.
Heitzman and sophomore point guard Cooper Fife should see most of the offense run through them this year with a slew of big men to help with defense and rebounding.
“Korbin and Cooper are our legitimate scorers,” Martinez said. “Dane has a great basketball body who can shoot. Mosi is a great leader who has a physical presence, and Owen will be a great combo guard.”
Martinez added that he will utilize senior McCade Parke’s athleticism and size, which is something that wasn’t touted last season. Martinez also began picking up some football players, who will give his squad more depth, as senior Andreas Salamanca was added.
Senior Mike Fehr’s defense will also be key in stopping teams like Jerome that has a big-time post presence.
As the development of these players is important, so are wins. Wins generate interest in the games and the team, which will eventually shift the culture of basketball at Wood River.
“I’d love to see fans in the stands,” Martinez said. “I want the community to be excited to watch these guys play.”
Over the summer, Martinez took his crew to multiple tournaments in Ada County where he saw huge improvements. The Wood River boys constantly were challenged by playing better teams from bigger schools.
“Our guys were constantly the talk of many tournaments,” Martinez said.
The excitement that Martinez is bringing hopes to translate to a state tournament appearance, something that hasn’t happened in over 10 years.
Wood River tips off the season on Wednesday, Dec. 1, when the Wolverines are on the road against Kimberly with the game beginning at 7:30 p.m. WRHS’ first home game is on Wednesday, Dec. 8 against Buhl.
Wood River’s varsity roster:
Head coach—Juan Martinez (1st year).
Seniors (3)—Andres Salamanca, McCade Parke, Mike Fehr.
Juniors (8)—Eric Chavez, Mosi Slotten, Korbin Heitzman, Owen Stouffer, Dane Malko, Gabe Nilsen, Gunnar Kimball, Hunter Mclaren.
Sophomores (3)—Cooper Fife, Freddy Ambriz, Dylan Gill.
Head coach—Mike O’leary.
Junior (1)—Jonathan Armenta.
Sophomores (9)—Santana Ubence, Julian Gray, Tavin Puckett, Kyle Ipsen, Gage Wilson, Dylan Gill, Freddy Ambriz.
Freshmen (3)—Eli Edwards, Sully Carter, Wyatt Crego.
Head coach—Sean Bunce.
Sophomores (6)—Parker Bridge, Gavin Hunter, Jonathan Zavala, Noah Dayton, Tyler Shipley.
Freshmen (10)—Dylan Shubert, Sully Carter, Eli Edwards, Jose Villanueva, Saul Hurtado, Wyatt Crego, Benjamin Torres, Connelly Aicher, Cash Hunter, Lennon Hunter.