Olson steps in to lead enthusiastic Comets
More often than not, first-year coaches are tasked with a rebuilding role after inheriting a program in flux.
But that might not be the case for new Cardinal boys basketball coach Jay Olson. He already has his sights set on a top conference finish after taking the program’s reins this winter.
“I’d say 15 wins is a good goal for us; finish top four in our conference,” said Olson. “I even think we’re capable of getting second or third and knocking off a couple teams. We have that kind of talent. We just need to get it working together, I think.”
The Comets finished 6-16 in 2011-12 and lost three contributing seniors to graduation, but Olson saw what his current group was capable of when they played 20 games together in the summer.
“They’ve been playing together for a while, and we played a lot this summer. I was able to coach and put an offense in then, and we’ve been working on that,” Olson said. “They haven’t all gotten a ton of minutes in, but I think the little time they’ve had in the summer is going to help a lot.”
Olson, who is also an assistant varsity football coach in the fall, said the transition into his head coaching role couldn’t have gone any smoother for him or his players. He credits some of that to assistant coach Jake Blumer.
“He’s done really well. He knows the guys really well who were here last year and knows their strengths and weaknesses, and he helped me out about what they need to work on most,” said Olson.
And while the team has had some turnover at the position in recent years, Olson said he plans to provide consistency at the top.
“I’m expected to be here for a while. This is where I’m from originally, and I’ve got a good group of kids to work with,” he said.
The good group of players features four seniors, including last year’s leading scorer, Jonathan Pedersen. The forward should continue to be one of Cardinal’s top scoring options after shooting 52 percent from the field, and he’s also the top returning rebounder.
Senior Dakota Showman, who plays quarterback in the fall, will join Pedersen in the starting lineup and returns with the ball in his hands at point guard, and Neil Urtado and Cody Carter also provide senior experience off the bench.
Charlie Rachford, a junior, steps into the starting lineup at guard after seeing playing time in every game as a sophomore, Sophomores Kaleb Durflinger and Brandon Potts round out the varsity lineup and figure to make an immediate impact on the court. Both big men saw limited time last season but should only get better as they become more acclimated to the varsity level.
“They’re just a couple of big, strong guys down low. They’re athletic and they can move,” said Olson. “We’ve got a good mix of talent and these sophomores are going to help out a ton,” said Olson.
Also dressing for varsity will be Connor McElderry and Kyle Kent, both juniors, as well as sophomore Nathan Yeager.
Cardinal’s biggest challenge in the SEISC South will no doubt be Danville, which has finished runner-up in the state the last two seasons. Olson also expects Burlington Notre Dame and Central Lee to be in the thick of things this winter.