This season’s version of the Weatherford College Coyotes basketball team will feature many new faces and one familiar face in a new position.
Chris Lewis takes over as the team’s new head coach after several seasons as an assistant to the now-retired Mark Osina. He takes over a team coming off a 10-13 season that ended in the first round of the Northern Texas Junior College Athletic Conference Tournament.
The Coyotes’ roster this season includes 10 freshmen. However, not all are true freshmen in the sense that this is their first season with the squad.
Two of those freshmen are listed among four returning players who started and saw plenty of action last season.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the NJCAA allowed an extra year of eligibility to student-athletes. This also means two-year college athletes could remain with their respective programs for a third season if they chose.
Also, Lewis has a new assistant coach, Payne Andrus.
“I’m excited for our guys and to get everything going,” Lewis said. “Even though we still have to continue to improve as the year goes on, I think we have the potential to be a team that’s competing for a regional tournament berth.”
There’s plenty of reason for such optimism. All four returners were honored with all-conference accolades, led by second-team selection Aaron Heft (16 points per game, 3.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 43 percent shooting from 3-point range). Receiving an honorable mention was 6-foot-5 sophomore Dillion Bennett (10.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 46 percent field goal percentage, 82 percent free throw percentage).
As for those two aforementioned returners still listed as freshmen, they are 6-2 Trey Glenn (7.0 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 41 percent from 3-point range) and Jakobi Greenleaf (6.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.6 steals, 55 percent field goal percentage). Both were also honorable mention all-conference.
Another key returner is 6-4 sophomore Deaken Stangl. He played for the Coyotes in the 2019-20 season but sat out last season because of COVID-19. He averaged 6.2 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.7 assists as a solid contributor
in his previous season.
Newcomers who could immediately impact the team are 6-10 sophomore Stephon Roberts, 6-9 freshman Kenyan Russell, 6-3 freshman Mathew Okoye and 6-8 freshman Jeronimo Villegas.
“Roberts runs the floor and finishes above the rim and protects the paint on D,” Lewis said. “Russell can score around the basket but also step out and hit jumpers. Okoye is a quick guard that can get to the basket and finish, also knocks down the 3, and Villegas is a skilled stretch four that can play inside-out and a good passer for his size.”
Rounding out the roster are 6-5 Jayden Patcha, 6-1 Antonio Sisk, 6-2 Kaden Morgan, 6-4 Aleksa Milentijevic and 6-4 Yash Mattu, all freshman.
“I think last year helped those returners gain experience by getting the opportunity to play a full year of college basketball and adjusting to college life without it counting against their eligibility,” Lewis said.
Lewis added that it will be nice to get back to a normal schedule after last season was shortened because of the pandemic. Last season didn’t start until January and featured fewer games.
“It’s good that we will get a chance to play teams outside our conference and have some good tests early in the year, so, hopefully, we are prepared and ready when conference season comes,” he said.
About conference, Lewis said it will once again be one of the toughest around.
“I’ve seen some of our conference teams play in scrimmages, and there are some good teams that we will have to play well against to beat. We have some early games against teams in the west that will give us an idea of where we stand,” he said.
“Grayson and McLennan return some key guys, and Ranger and Hill look to have good teams that compete hard, so it will be tough, but I think we have a chance to make regionals if we play like I feel we are capable of.”
Lewis is confident his team will display more depth than the past couple of seasons despite the numerous newcomers. He also lists his team’s up-tempo style and pushing the ball in transition as key strengths.
“We still need to continue to get better at staying focused on the little details that will make us a really good team and learning what each guy’s strengths are so they can help us win,” he said. “I have high hopes for this team and look forward to getting started.”