Sometimes actions speak louder than words. That was the case last Friday night for Naugatuck head coach Kevin Wesche.
Midway through the second quarter, with his team down double-digits to Ansonia, Wesche wanted to create a spark for his team. He was partially successful.
The game still ended in a loss. But dividends were paid on a bold decision.
Wesche made a complete change in his lineup. He took all five regulars out. The move created an immediate sense of urgency that Naugy had lacked. And a reminder had been sent to his team—playing time is not guaranteed to anyone.
The next day at practice, a renewed interest was apparent.
“I think based on everybody that’s here [at practice], because nobody bagged us on practice, everybody wants to fight for that game time back,” Wesche said. “And like I told them, one practice or one game is not going to close the door on the other kids, unless the other kids stop hustling.”
Initially, Wesche intended only to use the substitutions as a wakeup call. However, the subs refused to give up their spot on the court.
“My intention wasn’t to sit [the regulars] for the half; that wasn’t my goal,” Wesche said. “But these kids made it so that I couldn’t take them off the court.”
Players who had seen little or no varsity time were given a chance. It was something that was not taken lightly.
“Jamaal Gee had not seen varsity time at all this year. [Friday night], he was one that when I turned around he was looking at me,” Wesche said. “He went out there and did a phenomenal job.”
Gee finished with four points, and earned high marks for his work on offense and defense.
Shawn Freeney also took advantage of the unexpected playing time and fought through an injury to score eight points. He sat out of practice on Saturday morning but was still excited about the next time he would be able to be on the court.
“It kind of boosted my confidence a little bit,” Freeney said. “It let me know that I can go out there, and the coaches trust me and they believe that I can go out there and play.”
Wesche also praised the work of Nolan Kinne (eight points), Dennis Spanhaak (four points) and DaShawn Wingate (six points).
Said Kinne, “It’s exciting because I work so hard in practice and JV games, and it’s good to be rewarded for that.”
Wesche was pleased by the overall effort of the reserves.
“They went out and made some things happen. There was no fear in their eyes—no fear whatsoever,” Wesche said. “They were going against a bigger, stronger, quicker, more experienced team than they were. That was an opportunity to show what they could do.”
Wesche said no one has lost a role on the team. Instead, expectations have been raised and reinforced: If you want to play, you have to constantly show your desire.
“It takes no talent to hustle, go out and give me 100 percent,” Wesche said. “I don’t ask for more because you can’t give more.”