By Jordan Burton (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Cale Ramsey’s first season at Fair Grove couldn’t have gone much better, guiding the Eagles to their fourth 20-win season in the last five years.
While that’s a lofty total that any first-year head coach can be proud of, Ramsey is excited to see what’s in store for his group this year now that there is more continuity with his expectations of his team and their familiarity with his system.
“Taking over a program in year one always presents challenges,” said Ramsey. “You have to get to know the strengths and weaknesses of each player so that you can put them in spots to be successful. Players also must learn what the coach’s expectations of them are. Now that we are in year two, I think that both the players and I understand what we are trying to accomplish and how we are going to get there together.”
Fair Grove returns two starters and six total letterwinners from last year’s 20-7 squad. But, the two starters are really good at what they do.
David Oplotnik and Cole Gilpin form the best duo in the league, with both earn All-Mid-Lakes honors last year. Oplotnik put up 16 points and five rebounds a night while Gilpin was a stat sheet stuffer, averaging 10 points, five rebounds, four assists and nearly two steals per game.
Also, football standouts, both have an incredible blend of athleticism and skill.
“Cole and David are special players that have been playing varsity since they were freshman,” said Ramsey. “I think the chemistry they have created playing together since their freshman year has helped both of them become successful. They are both very talented players with high basketball IQs that can score the ball at will, but their best attribute is the leadership that they bring to not only their teammates on varsity but to the younger players as well.”
Classmates Ambrose Broyles and Dominik Hoskins will see bigger roles this winter as starters after playing major minutes as juniors. Both are 6-foot-4 and give Fair Grove length across the floor that few Class 3 teams can match.
“Ambrose brings energy on both ends of the floor,” said Ramsey. “He does all the little things that makes teams successful. He is a kid that has good post moves and can step out and shoot the ball as well. Dom is a big kid who can guard any position on the defense end and his foot speed and ability to create angles in the post on offense makes him tough to guard inside.”
Sophomores Ryan Berry and Logan Daniels, as well as Devin Carroll, will give Fair Grove three players that can shoot the ball and help alleviate some of the offensive pressure on Oplotnik and Gilpin.
“Ryan is a sophomore that we are expecting big things out of this year,” said Ramsey. “He can shoot the ball off the dribble, as well as, catch and shoot coming off of screens or on the move within our offense. Logan may be one of our best players moving without the basketball. He reads the defense very well, and when he catches the ball, he is able to score from all over the floor. Logan is a player that takes on any challenges that come his way.
“Devin tore is ACL his freshman year before the season got going. He is a tall kid at 6-foot-3 that can shoot the ball from anywhere on the court. Devin is one of the hardest workers on the team and will be a big asset to our team once fully healthy.”
The Eagles will be adjusting to new faces in different roles this winter. With pockets of inexperience, one thing Ramsey is adamant his team must do this season is finish games.
Last year, six of Fair Grove’s seven losses came by eight points or fewer.
The schedule was brutal, which is a natural out, but Ramsey would like to see his team be a little sharper in those moments, which could be the difference in an early district exit and a Final Four run.
“The close game losses are always tough especially when three are to Class 5 teams and one is to the Class 2 state champs,” said Ramsey. “But there is only one thing to do, and that is to watch film, learn, and execute the next time out, which we did do in a lot of close games as well.
“To compete at a championship level, we will need to come prepared to get better every day in practice. The teams that win big games or championships do not have players that take days off.”
Fair Grove will open the 2019-20 season at home against Hillcrest on Nov. 26.