Wando thriving with Eaton
There's been a marked improvement in the Wando boys basketball team this season, and it runs deeper than the varsity team's 10-5 record heading into today's game at Berkeley.
Coach David Eaton is confident the Warriors can eventually become one of the big boys on the block after being bullied around the two seasons before he took over as the head coach. The Warriors were 3-21 and 2-19 last season before Eaton, and they are 21-16 after he landed the job in time for the 2008-09 season.
"I'm extremely pleased with the progress," said the 28-year-old Eaton, who had a solid hoops career at Wofford College and served as a graduate assistant at the school to begin his career. "I knew we could do it. But we know it takes time to build a state-title contender."
It also takes talent, and there seems to be plenty at the Mount Pleasant school.
The junior varsity team is 10-4 and the B-team has a 5-0 record. While finding approximately 40 students to fill out the three basketball rosters would seem to be an easy chore, the student population is diverse and basketball has to compete against other athletic programs and extracurricular activities.
"It's just a matter of finding the right mix of players and following through, building the right chemistry," he said. "We've got a lot of good athletes, but they have to buy into what you are teaching what you are trying to accomplish."
The varsity team has accomplished plenty this winter. The team's record could be a little better with a little luck. Three of the losses have come against West Ashley, one of the top teams in the state. One was a four-point loss and Tuesday's 60-50 defeat wasn't indicative of how close the game was. The Warriors overcame a 34-33 deficit at the end of three periods to force overtime. However, the Wildcats secured the victory with a 14-4 run in overtime.
"We've gotten to the level that we can give Goose Creek, West Ashley, Berkeley and Fort Dorchester a close game," Eaton said. "The next step is to beat those teams. The future looks bright. We just have to continue to develop."
The team has a good blend of experience and youth.
The team's captain is 6-4 shooting guard Joe Rubino. He's a leader on and off the court and makes a coach's job a little easier and a lot more fun, Eaton said.
Junior John Swinton is a three-year starter and a captain. He should be one of the two building blocks for next year's team. The other building block is 6-4 Naji Pasha, who is probably the best athlete on the team.
One of the Warriors' goals is to win Region 7-AAAA. That means Wando would have to supplant defending state champ Goose Creek.
"I'm a realist, but winning the region is not out of the question," Eaton said. It's going to take a lot of hard work and a little time. We can be up there, too."