Since being named Polk County’s head boys basketball coach in May, Antoni Staley has been putting together a puzzle, piece by piece.
Wanting to build community awareness of the program as well as build bonds among his team, Staley has had the Wolverines involved in a wide range of off-court activities. Team members have done volunteer work with the Polk County Library and numerous other local agencies, raised money with a pancake breakfast and have attended church together.
Wanting to instill the same spirit of hard work and discipline that he learned from former Polk County coach Derek Thomas, Staley had players train in early-morning workouts throughout the summer, run the steps in G.M. Tennant Stadium in afternoons, even take yoga classes together.
And wanting to put the fundamentals in place for his offense and defense, Staley had players do endless drills, often focusing on one small aspect of the game as it relates to his planned approach. Build success by building atop the fundamentals is his idea.
How well the pieces have fallen into place to frame Polk County’s 2016-2017 season will be determined beginning Tuesday as the Wolverines host East Henderson for their home and regular season opener.
Six months into his new role, Staley is ready for the debut.
“I am ready to see these guys and see how the work they put in over the summer and see everything else come into play,” Staley said.
“Everything has come together. All the summer workouts and the volunteer work and the charity work, working at the library with the kids, going to church together. Those are the type of things that are going to pay off when the community sees us and supports us. I’ve made them work hard, and I’m ready for them to see the results of what I’ve been saying.”
The Wolverines that take the floor Tuesday will be a young group, with just four seniors. Two of those, Brandon Bacher and Jaymes Wingo, will be joined by Dillon Overholt as late arrivals from Polk County’s football team. Overholt (7.9 points per game) and Wingo (6.5 ppg) are the leading returning scorers from last season’s 7-18 squad.
The other two – Rustin Muse and Malik Miller – are expected to provide key leadership as well as on-court contributions. Muse and Bacher will be joined in the backcourt by junior Jaylon Bontrager, sophomores Amir Gary, Javen Mings, Jack Derkach and Clark Phipps.
Joining Miller in the frontcourt will be junior Holden Owens, in his third varsity season, sophomore David Horton and 6-7 junior Seth Hardin.
“We’ve got a lot of good guards and a big man that I’ve never had,” Staley said. “The team is young.”
Former Polk County standout Otis Miller will coach the Wolverine junior varsity and join Staley on the bench along with Eric Russell.
“Being around these guys has been great,” Staley said of his team. “I wanted to come back and be their coach. I want to get the program where it needs to be. Being around these guys, it actually has helped me.
“I’m excited. I’m ready to see all of this work pay off.”