By BLAKE FAITH
Last season, the Cerro Gordo-Bement boys basketball team lost in the regional final game. This season, the Broncos look to get back to that game and win while also being the host of their regional this year.
Head coach Brandon Willard is going into his sixth year with the Broncos and said that so far into this season, his team had not only been a fun group of kids, but also want to work hard.
“I feel really good,” Coach Willard said. “We have a really good, fun group of kids that just want to work hard and that’s exciting to have. Kids I don’t have to beg to come to practice, I don’t have to beg to play hard to practice. So it’s a really good group here for my sixth year and it is exciting.”
Coach Willard said that his team got a lot of shots up in the off-season including four of his top guys spending all fall lifting and shooting while working also on their speed. The other focus is finding players that will replace the scoring of Connor Brown.
“We’re kind of trying to reinvent ourselves a little bit differently,” Coach Willard said. “”We’re not going to be able to do it the same way that we did it last year, which got us to 27 wins. We’re going to have to rethink the way we go about things and I think that it’s going to take hard work, but we’ve shown the summer how hard those guys are willing to work together.”
Coach Willard said when it comes to leadership that the Broncos are going to be senior heavy. Those seniors include Carson Brown and Konnor Waterhouse and a junior Tyson Moore will also be expected to lead.
“When it comes to volunteering to referee for the youth league or volunteering to keep the clock tonight for the junior high game or when it comes to volunteering in the community these kids do it with no questions asked,” Coach Willard said. “We needed a few kids to head over to Mount Zion to clean up a highway the other day and two of them just jumped in the car and did it in the middle of the day. They are the leaders in the school, they are the leaders in the community and they spend time with the elementary kids. They volunteered their time for the last four or five Wednesdays to teach little kids how to play basketball here. That’s what makes it fun is they’re just they will do anything I asked in anything I need, anything the school needs anything their community needs those guys pick it up and do it right away all of them. So they’re exactly what student athletes should be.”
As for replacing Connor Brown’s scoring, Moore, Waterhouse and Carson Brown will have to pick up the load.
“We are also going to have to slow things down a little bit more than we did last year and really try to value every possession a little bit better,” Coach Willard said. “But I think it’s a great opportunity. Because after those guys that I named, you’re looking at freshmen and sophomores and a few juniors that haven’t, you know, from six to 15 on the roster they’re all new players to the varsity level. So it’s a great opportunity for them and we’re gonna have to put them to trial by fire a little bit.”
Carson Brown has taken on his senior leadership role as being a help to his teammates, encouraging them and showing them by example to hustle and that hard work will pay off. Carson Brown’s team goal is to bring home as much team hardware as they can and wants to follow in his brother’s footsteps and make all-conference and all-state.
“I want to be remembered as someone who always gave it their all, always hustled, always tried to go the extra mile and always gave it his all,” Carson Brown said. “Someone who just pushed through everything, tried to lead a team, tried to be a good teammate and a good person.”
Waterhouse has been the senior leader who tries to keep the energy up and positive even when mistakes are made. Waterhouse’s individual goal is to stand out as a good teammate and team goal is to be a good team and bring trophies back to Cerro Gordo-Bement. Waterhouse wants to be remembered by his coaches and teammates as a good person.
Moore is a junior that as a sophomore has a starting role on the team, but as a leader he thinks he’ll fit in well with the senior group.
“I lead by example and I am encouraging and that’s one of the things we don’t want to do here,” Moore said. “We don’t want to put people down or just discourage each other. We’re a team. So we just want to encourage each other as much as possible and try to keep our heads up.”
Moore’s individual goal is to be on the all-conference first or second team and his team goal is to win 20 games.
Coach Willard said that the Broncos are in the business of winning trophies this season. Last year, the only trophy that the Broncos won was the Turkey Tournament which was a really good accomplishment according to Coach Willard, but came short on other things.
These guys are not not just trying to get to a .500 record and we’re not just trying to get above .500, or anything like that,” Coach Willard said. “We’re trying to win some trophies. And I think that we have a shot to do that. But it’s going to look different than it did last year for sure.”
Coach Willard’s overall message to readers and this community is that his team is hard-working and will play for each other while not being one ounce arrogant or selfish.
“These will be kids that you can come watch and cheer for and support and have your kids come and watch about how you should play,” Coach Willard said. That’s how you should work. That’s how you should behave. That’s how you should act. And I think that this group makes both me and the Cerro Gordo community proud and they should and people should come to watch that because that’s what’s most important.”
The Broncos begin their season this week in their Turkey Tournament beginning with Heritage and St. Thomas More.