By Kary Booher
Shane Chadwell isn’t about to sugarcoat it. This season will be a challenge in so many ways for the Norwood Pirates boys’ basketball team.
But, if you think about it, the upcoming winter offers an opportunity. An opportunity to lay the foundation toward future success, and Chadwell is optimistic that players have heeded the call as he enters his third year as coach.
“The seniors may not get the immediate success, but should know they are part of getting us back to where we want to be,” Chadwell said. “And they’ve bought in. They understand.”
Norwood has enjoyed success before. The 2011-2012 team won 27 games and reached the Class 2 state quarterfinals, where the Pirates were eliminated by eventual state champion Billings. That was the tail end of a run of three consecutive district championships for Norwood.
Chadwell would love to build the program back to that level, given he is an alum. He graduated from Norwood in 2004 and was part of a couple of successful postseason teams.
But the Pirates hit the hardwood this winter trying to run through the teeth of a harsh wind, so to speak.
For one, Norwood graduated eight seniors off last year’s team, which ended 13-14, the second consecutive year of finishing only one game below .500. But the Pirates also are members of the Summit Conference, home to Class 2 state champion Hartville and a slew of competitive teams who could threaten 20 wins this season.
Besides, Norwood is the smallest school in the Summit, just 12 students north of being a Class 1 school.
But Chadwell wants – no, demands – that the Pirates see it as a positive. In a year or two, look at what they can say they overcame.
As Chadwell put it, “It’s a matter of who gets their big boy pants on and come to play. It’s an opportunity.”
After all, almost everyone has little to no varsity experience.
The roster features seniors A.J. Barnes and Tyler Pritchard, junior Tim Thornton, Mason Sawyers and sophomores Hunter Gray, Seth Bradshaw, Owen Butterum, Chance Looney and Mason Page. Zack Baker, a senior, will hope to join the team after recovering from an injury. Heston Gray, a freshman, could see playing time.
“Barnes, he’s our team leader on the floor and team captain,” Chadwell said. “We had a few open gyms this summer, and he always showed up. He’s not a scorer. But he’s going to give you 110 percent every night.”
Pritchard’s quickness also should be an asset for Norwood, which is looking to be more uptempo this year.
“He’s just a real athletic kid,” Chadwell said.
Hunter Gray could factor greatly into the offense.
“If he’s on, he’s on,” Chadwell said. “But he’s still adjusting to the varsity level. He needs to recognize the difference between a good shot and a great shot. He’s got to slow down.”
Collectively, the team will have to find scorers following the graduations of Max Malone and Weston Chadwell, who were both All-Summit. Malone scored 1,109 career points.
“The best five will be out there and everybody is replaceable,” Chadwell said. “So they better come to work.”