Rams work their way past transition

Saturday, November 30, 2002

SCOTT CITY, Mo. -- It's been said that change is good, but for some reason the required transition period can be less than smooth.

For Scott City, a lot changed last season. Former assistant coach Kerry Thompson took over the reins of a perennial 20-win program built by former coach Derek McCord.

The Rams had their moments under Thompson, but a team that was plagued by injuries -- and at times had four sophomores on the floor -- finished the season with a first-round loss in the district tournament and an uncharacteristic 11-14 record.

"Last year it just didn't feel like my team," Thompson said. "This year it feels like my team. At practice the attitude is different. The focus is on what's here."

Scott City returns four starters and three lettermen. The Rams had a year of maturing and learning along with their coach, who is looking to return the Rams to their former success in his own style.

"We used a lot of things used before, and not like there was anything wrong with the things in place," Thompson said. "But you can't coach like someone else. You have to be yourself. A lot of it was my fault."

Thompson bubbles with excitement when he talks about a deep returning cast that should receive a boost from new faces, including talented sophomore Mark Dannenmueller.

"Potentially we could be a really good team," Thompson said. "Potential -- it's a good word to use right now, but we want to get rid of it during the season."

The Rams have the ingredients to excel in numerous facets.

Leading the list of returnees is 6-foot-2 senior forward D.J. Walton, an accurate shooter from anywhere on the court. Walton led the Rams with 15 points per game last season and was named first-team All-Scott Mississippi Conference.

"We have several guys that can shoot, but consistently he's my best," Thompson said.

Walton has added 10 to 15 pounds for his final season.

"He's worked his tail off and is so much stronger," Thompson said. "His shot is more consistent and he's been a good leader at practice. We have high expectations for him and so far he's handled it well."

The Rams have another first-team all-conference returnee in junior center Tyler Ward, who at 6-foot-8 has grown two inches since last season when he averaged nine points and seven rebounds. Ward has also added quickness, strength and some inside moves.

"If he gets more physical like has in practice, the sky's the limit because he has great touch on his shot," Thompson said.

Also returning is junior point guard Jeremy Schlosser, who broke his wrist toward the end of last season. Senior off-guard Chris Bradshaw also is back after missing six weeks last season with a broken collarbone.

Leading the returning lettermen is 6-6 senior Chad Weatherspoon, honorable mention all-conference as a junior. Weatherspoon just finished a dominating season at defensive end for the football team and could be a handful on the basketball court. Weatherspoon, a center/forward, averaged eight points and six rebounds as a junior and could be in the starting lineup.

Juniors Darren Willey (5-8), who will split time at the guard spots, and forward Andy Beck (6-2) provide depth at forward.

Fellow juniors Ryan Glastetter (forward, 6-0), Steve Sanford (guard, 5-8) and David Dees (forward, 6-0) played mainly JV last year, as well as Dannenmueller, a 6-2 forward/guard.

As a freshman, Dannenmueller led the JV with 15 points and nine rebounds per game before seeing varsity action in districts. Thompson projects a lot of playing time for the sophomore.

"The thing about Mark is he can go inside or outside," Thompson said. "He's a great 3-point shooter."

Discipline will be one of the keys for Rams this season. Thompson is looking for better shot selection, which was lacking last season, and more poise and less fouls on defense. The Rams also want to improve on 54 percent free-throw shooting.

jbreer@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 124

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