By Nolan Epstein (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
This year can very well be considered a season of redemption in more ways than one for head coach Derek Wilson and the Galena Bears.
Galena struggled to do much winning during the 2015-16 campaign, but the Bears lost much more than just games last winter.
In early November, Coach Wilson underwent a kidney transplant after originally being diagnosed with stage 5 chronic kidney disease back in April of 2015 – forcing him to step away from the team for much of the year during recovery.
Now, with those tribulations in the rear-view mirror, Wilson is back and ready to lead his squad to bigger and better things following an 8-17 season.
“I thought last season was a year where we saw growth for our program’s future,” said Wilson. “I thought that the players did a great job of listening to my assistant when I had surgery and then responding back to me when I returned. Last year was a building year for guys that I will have to rely heavily on this year.”
The timing seems to be just right for the Bears to make an impact this year, thanks to having six seniors lead the way on a loaded roster.
For Galena, it all begins with senior post Cameron Caulfield. The 6-foot-2 Caulfield average 12.2 PPG and 5.6 RPG in his junior year on his way to claiming honorable mention all-SWCL.
“[Caulfield] was someone that the defense had to key in on to get a win,” Wilson said. “I look for him to continue that throughout the season.”
Point guard duties will be assigned to fellow senior Caleb Hall (9.8 PPG, 4.9 APG). Hall can easily cause chaos for other teams with his passing abilities as well as his versatility.
“He can play anywhere I need him,” Wilson said of Hall. “He runs our system and creates well for his team.”
Senior Blake Batson (4.5 PPG, 3.2 RPG), the tallest player on the Bears at 6-foot-4, figures to be a major presence in the post, but Batson’s shooting abilities can throw a wrinkle into opponents’ defensive game plan.
“I expect [Batson] to keep the defense honest by hitting the 15-foot shot and stepping out to hit the three,” Wilson noted. “He is a tough kid that will create matchup problems for other teams.”
Caleb Seaman (7.2 PPG), Logan Stewart (1.3 PPG) and Dallas Besperat (2.4 PPG) round out the strong senior core for Wilson’s team, while juniors Austin Holt and Jacob O’Neil, and sophomore Luke Burk seek to complement some of the primary scorers and add depth.
Barring any major injuries, chances are good for a turnaround this year at Galena as it looks to climb the standings in the formidable SWCL.
“The thing that excites me most about our season this year the talent I have with my players,” added Wilson. “This group works well together and is willing to sacrifice for the better of the team. This group has been together from elementary and play well off each other.”
The Bears open up the 2016-17 season by hosting Exeter on Nov. 22.