With a far less experienced team than he has had in recent years, Fort Dorchester boys basketball coach Leon Wheaton entered the 2014-15 season not sure what to expect from a virtually new squad.
Wheaton, however, says the expectations of the program never change, regardless of the roster.
“We always are going to expect our teams to compete at the highest level they can,” says the sixth-year head man. “We may not have the size that we have had in the past. We may not be as experienced as some of our other teams. But we’re going to set the bar high. Our expectations from year to year never change. We want to compete for region championships and for state championships.”
Fort Dorchester enters Region 8-AAAA play on Friday night with a more than respectable 9-3 record. Two losses came to Battery Creek and the other to Wando. The Patriots’ most impressive early wins came over James Island (twice) and Porter-Gaud.
“To be honest, we’re about where I hoped we would be going into region play,” said Wheaton. “The record is not really important at this point but I knew we had a lot of new guys and I knew we needed some time to gel. We’ve looked pretty good at times and we’ve looked pretty bad, but I think we’re making progress every day.”
In terms of personnel, the three main offensive weapons are senior forward Will Munoz (11.3 ppg), sophomore guard Kiyoun Reese (13.6 ppg) and junior guard Mason Snype (10.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg). Munoz and Reese were full-time starters last season.
Senior post James McFadden is a third-year varsity player but has struggled with injuries in each of the last two seasons. This year, however, McFadden is leading the team in rebounding at 8.1 boards per game. He says the Patriots seem to be meshing at the right time.
“We have a lot of new guys but we are getting on the same page together,” he says. “We all have one goal — to win a championship. If we continue to work as hard as we have been, we will have a chance. We know the region will be very tough but we are hoping to be the toughest team.”
Wheaton’s mantra with this year’s team is “finish strong.” The coach stresses to his team the importance of finishing each day — practice or game — on a positive, strong note.
“We want to finish every quarter, every practice, every game, everything that we do,” said Wheaton. “If we start a game poorly, we want to finish that first quarter strong. The game is not always going to be easy. We will have to struggle through a lot of tough quarters, ups and downs. But if we finish strong, we have a chance to win our share of games.”
Wheaton has coached two region championship teams in his first five seasons. The Patriots appear to be the favorites in Region 8, though defending region champion Summerville is putting things together after a slow start.
“I don’t know if we’re the favorites, or if any team is the favorite,” said Wheaton. “It’s a competitive region. I expect every game to be close. This team cannot take a night off. We’re not good enough to take a night off and win. We have to bring it every night.”