INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — By design from the top, a form of organized chaos must reign on the court if good things are to happen for the St. Edward’s varsity boys basketball team this year.
Second year head coach Mike Fedick believes that a frenetic, up-tempo style will give his team the best chance to compete.
But just in case, he has a safe fallback strategy: Carefully diagramed plays for a controlled, patterned offense.
Ideally, one or two might actually work during the course of a 32-minute game.
But illusions need not apply here. The true bread and butter will come from an opportunistic defense that forces turnovers and creates a fast-paced transition game.
The idea is to get off a shot before the other team can set-up defensively.
A lay-up or good look at the basket from outside will do nicely. It’s a game that relies on the quickness that Pirate teams have generally fallen victim to in recent years.
Half and full court match-up or trapping zone defenses will be tossed in with man-to-man to generate tipped passes, loose balls and frazzled opponents – with perhaps a few floor burns to boot.
Fans will be treated to numerous turnovers, frustrated coaches, and action on the floor that seems out of control at times.
After two preseason losses in which they were admittedly “overmatched” against larger schools from Ft. Pierce, the Pirates were able to register a 42- 35 win in the regular season opener at home against Trinity Christian.
They did it by following the script laid out by the coach, aided mightily by seven three-pointers from the backcourt combination of sophomore Darell Flowers and junior Eric Strickland.
The Pirates went on to drop the next two, scoring only 20 and 27 points in back-to-back district defeats.
Following seasons of 4-14 in Fedick’s first year and 1-19 the year before – and with no quick fixes in sight – the coaching staff plans to reinvigorate the program incrementally.
“We lost some key players from last year, including our leading scorer (Johnny McLendon),” Fedick said. “We’re a young team with only eight guys on the roster. Most of them are not year round basketball players.”
So Fedick opted to start this season modestly and gradually build momentum.
“We are going to focus on a couple of things, namely ball pressure and transition points. We’ve got to score easy baskets, mostly off our defense. We’re smaller, but quicker than last year.”
Lacking “terrific shooters” to rely on, Fedick says “we have to hold other teams to 30-40 points-per-game to have a chance to win.”
Then comes the unavoidable ‘elephant’ in the gym. Somebody dressed in blue and white will have to drain some shots.
“Flowers is probably going to be our main scorer,” Fedick told us. “We are counting on him to carry us with around 15 to 20 (points per game).”
Strickland should provide additional punch from the backcourt, the obvious strength of the team.
Fedick would be satisfied if everyone else could chip in with “four to six points per game” for an offense that should assiduously avoid getting caught up in high scoring shootouts.
About the production his coach hopes to see, Flowers says “I understand that and I want to be a leader. We’re not very experienced, but we’re trying hard and getting to know each other better on the court. So far it’s looking pretty good.”
Strickland and Flowers will get the lion’s share of time on the perimeter.
Senior David Cicco and junior Nick Goracy will be featured prominently when Fedick goes small and employs a threeguard set.
Senior Connor Rodman, junior Paul Engelmann and sophomore Kris Menninger started in the front court as the season began.
Watch for promising freshman forward Wesley Campbell to see an increase in playing time as the season progresses.
Fedick described the front line as “not very tall, but we have a couple of kids over six feet who are very aggressive.”
Another disciplined fundamental – “boxing out” – must take hold on a regular basis for the team to be successful on the glass.
Noting that his athletes are “hard workers, good listeners and respectful” will help, but it is clear that Fedick and his staff have a project on their hands, both in the short and long term.
For right now, “playing with eight guys is tough,” Fedick explained. “With a fast pace, conditioning is important. One or two injuries will hurt. Even running full practices is difficult.”
To enable five-on-five scrimmages in practice, the junior varsity works outs with the varsity.
Looking ahead, Fedick wonders “who is going to step-up. It could be a complete shock. Somebody I don’t expect. For kids who don’t really play together that much, I just want them to understand how to play good team basketball.”