By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Two of the area’s top juniors lead the way for defending district champion Willard.
Forward Daniel Abreu (team-high 17.8 points and 6.4 rebounds per game) and guard Maurice “Mo” Grayer (7.3 ppg) will form a dynamic inside-outside combo for the Tigers.
“Daniel’s a four-year starter and has a tremendous skill set,” said new Willard coach Jeremy Dresslaer. “He’s not only a great player but also a great kid.
“Mo is a very long, athletic guard that we’ll be looking to have a much more significant role on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor. He has everything it takes to be one of the better guards in the area.”
Dresslaer is Willard’s third head coach in as many seasons. He began his head-coaching career last season with Purdy High School, where he coached the Eagles to their first final four appearance in program history.
Dresslaer gave credit to his Willard High School coaching predecessors, Lamont Frazier and Daniel Cutbirth, for laying a foundation of success.
“Coach Frazier and Coach Cutbirth have done great jobs with the Willard basketball program by leading them to back-to-back district championships the last two (seasons),” Dresslaer said. “This year’s group may not be as athletic as the teams in the past, but their character, coachability and chemistry will allow us to be very competitive every night.”
Willard finished 14-13 overall last season. It beat Waynesville to win the Class 5 District 10 tournament championship and lost to Rock Bridge in sectionals.
The Tigers graduated five seniors, including starters Kobe Holloman, Elijah Davis and Quintin Batson.
Along with Abreu and Grayer, Willard also brings back a four-year varsity player in senior Riley Young (4.9 ppg).
“He will be leaned on heavily for his leadership and experience,” Dresslaer said. “He is one of the best defenders that we have and we look for him to improve on his offensive production.”
Three more seniors are in contention for varsity playing time: Cole Oedewaldt, Dominic Hauck and Nathan Bushnell.
Oedewaldt, a standout soccer player, joined the Willard basketball team for the first time last season. Dresslaer said the 6’3” forward provides length and size to the team.
Hauck will be in the point guard rotation and is one of the team’s better defenders. Bushnell, a 6’3”, 200-pound forward, gives the Tigers versatility and can fill many roles.
In the junior class, Isaac Crase gives the Tigers more versatility with his ability to play inside or outside. Elijah Hill boasts tremendous speed and is a solid defender, Dresslaer said.
Hayden Roberts, a 6’4” sophomore, is one of the best shooters on the team. Haden Brown, a 6’3” freshman, could also see varsity playing time right away.
“Not having a full summer to implement offensive or defensive strategies has put us behind the pace, but the boys have shown they are hungry for success and willing to do what it takes to compete every night,” Dresslaer said.
Willard begins the season November 20 at Springfield Central.