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West teams enter sophomore season
West Forsyth senior point guard Lance Baker and other members of the Wolverines basketball team listen as coach Chris Roy gives instructions during a recent practice. - photo by Jared Putnam
A year older, the West Forsyth basketball teams are still looking for their footing. With new coaches at the reins, the Wolverine varsities are both just hoping for improvement in their second seasons.

"The kids have been working really hard. Last year, starting a brand new program we didn't have any real expectations and we made a lot of progress throughout the year," boys coach Chris Roy said.

Roy, an assistant under Duke Mullis a year ago before Mullis left to become head coach at Flowery Branch, said the focus this offseason has been on individual improvement and strength training.

The Wolverines were also pretty busy on the court, playing 38 games over the spring and summer

"I wanted to get as much game experience as possible. I just wanted them to try to experience as many different things and game situations as they could," Roy said.

With no seniors in the school a year ago, graduation wasn't a factor for the Wolverines, who welcome back four starters: senior point guard Lance Baker, senior forward Kris Drees, junior forward Shaeem McLaren and John Benedict, a junior who plays inside and out.

Chris Hickman, a senior guard, is likely to fill out his top five, Roy said.

Conner King, a returning sophomore, has gotten stronger and become a better player since last season, Roy said, while Josh Banasiak and Harold Earls have earned varsity spots after playing JV a year ago.

Roy said that perimeter play will be one of the team's stronger areas, without a lot of size in the frontcourt.

The coach is hoping that a year of experience playing together — and the fact that a new head coach was promoted from within in the offseason — will add to a sense of continuity for the team.

"There hasn't been much change at all. We've kept the same system in place, and we do things very similar," Roy said.

"WIth our program and our kids, we just are looking to take it one day at a time. I tell them every day I want them to get better each day. I don't want to place a lot of expectations as far as win total on 'em."

For the West girls, Dennis Benedict is getting ready for his first season as head coach.

He says there's plenty of work ahead for the Lady Wolverines, but they seem willing to tackle it.

"The learning curve is steep," Benedict said. "I think what I like the best about 'em is they've got a great attitude, they're hardworking."

Instead of enrolling the team in competitive camps over the summer, Benedict decided the team would be better served by focusing on fundamentals through summer practice sessions.

Benedict, who was an assistant for the school's boys coaching staff last year, says the core group of girls is back this season.

That includes point guard Lianne Muchmore, one of three seniors on the team, as well as sophomore guard Megan Whittaker, junior guard Kelsey Baker, junior forward Nikki Erdely and junior guard Kelsey Turchi.

Freshman Jenna Thompson and Chelsea Wood, who played JV a year ago, have also stood out in the preseason, Benedict said.

"Those seven are going to carry the bulk of the load,  starting out anyways," the coach said.

Other players who might see a fair bit of playing time are K'alina Michaels, Jamie Deal and Cathy Baker.

Benedict concedes the team won't intimidate anyone with size, and says his focus has been on improving fundamentals and holding fast-paced practices to acclimate the girls to high-pressure settings.

"What I do like about 'em is they listen real well," Benedict said.