By Justin Sampson (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Hall of Famer Mike Wilson built a strong program at Strafford, so when he retired after last season, former Lamar coach Tyler Ryerson tried to chase the coveted coaching position.
Tyler Ryerson agrees, and is more than eager to come back and try to continue the tradition.
“It’s arguably the best Class 3 job around,” he said.
The Willard native spent the last two seasons leading Lamar to 40-plus wins and a pair of conference titles. Ergo, the reigning Big 8 Coach of the Year will step in for the Mid-Lakes Coach of the Year.
Coming from one of the most football-rich communities in the state, Ryerson is quick to point out how the hardwood is ingrained in the Strafford community.
“Strafford has a history of success in basketball. Your expectations every year, regardless of talent, are sky-high. That’s the biggest difference. These kids grew up together playing basketball.”
Ryerson inherits not just an established culture, but an extremely full cupboard. Four starters are back from the 22-7 squad of last season, all of which are starters. It starts with All-State selection Riley Oberbeck, who carries a team-high 18.5 points and eight rebounds per night average.
Dillon Hester is also back after an All-Mid-Lakes Second Team selection and will help provide a defensive edge along with Trayson Lawler. Wyatt Maples also returns to the starting five once his quarterbacking days are done for 2018.
The fifth spot is up for grabs as an ACL injury to junior Sawyer Lumley will likely keep him out of the entire year.
It’s just the pack of guys that Ryerson has been looking for in order to scratch that defensive itch on the court. He was not shy to point out the range of options he now has at Strafford.
“At Lamar, we would protect the rim and play a rugged, physical style,” he said. “I have the athletes here that can push the tempo and deny passing lanes. We can anticipate because we have long, rangy athletes that can take up space.”
“Tenacious” comes to mind. Ryerson isn’t afraid to push his kids to try to be the most smothering, pestering bunch in the regionf.
“Coach Wilson and I are similar in a lot of areas. He was a defensive-minded guy who believed: ‘We’re just going to outwork you.’ When I’m in practice, we can show them that wall and hit it over and over again so, in a game setting, they can have mental toughness. They can rise to the occasion. They have done it before.”
The Indians could very well be the favorite to take the conference but will have to deal with reigning district champion Springfield Catholic (not to mention league rival Fair Grove) in order to return to the state tournament.
At the very least, there is no different psychological page that Ryerson and the Indians could fall upon when the season begins.
“The three Final Fours that Coach Wilson went to and the countless conference championships he won… the kids know what it takes to get there. They know they need to be leaders on the floor. That is already built in as I walk in the door. That makes our job easier.”