High school athletic programs build from top to bottom and bottom to top. Coaching staffs don’t just spend time with the varsity players they teach and guide the younger level — junior varsity and freshmen — in knowing fundamentals and the current head coach’s offense and defense.
But mainly its about the fundamentals at any sport. Once athletes master those everything else follows.
Junior varsity and freshmen athletes work and practice just like the varsity athletes do. Those levels don’t make it in the news as much for several reasons.
I wanted to take a look at the Newton High basketball programs and give the girls and boys on those junior varsity and freshmen teams from the 2019-20 season a look.
Both Cardinal basketball programs grew the right way this season as the new head coaches — Erik Vander Velden, girls, and Jason Carter, boys — and their coaching staffs did the work at all levels. It was good to see for the Cardinal teams.
For the Cardinal girls, there were JV 1 and JV 2 teams instead of junior varsity and varsity. The JV1 team was 6-12 with sophomore Kealey Manning and freshman Audrey Rausch leading the scoring. The JV2 team went 5-7 on the season with freshmen Emily Wermager, Jessie Hutchinson, Marissa Cunningham and Roxanna Almazan as the leading scorers.
“We are excited with what we have coming back next season,” Coach Vander Velden said. “The girls know what they need to work on in the offseason. It’s going to take commitment from everyone to keep on moving the program forward.”
Last week, the Cardinal girls held a mini-camp for 5th-8th grade girls and they had 30 participate. Vander Velden said it was amazing to get that turnout. His assistant coaches this season were LaNita Keeton, Bailey Johannes, Randy Mills, Tyler Stewart and Alex Hutchinson.
“We can see a lot of potential with them,” Vander Velden said. “Our coaches are excited to put in the work to make our players and team better.”
Carter’s coaching staff had Brady Calow, Chris Dydell and Tom Vanderlaan on it. Newton’s junior varsity boys had an outstanding season, going 17-3, which included a six-game winning stretch. The freshman squad was 14-6 as it won 10 of its last 11 games.
Dydell was the junior varsity coach and provided some information on the team. Freshman Jake Ingle, junior Parker Aalbers and sophomore Kael Swarts averaged in double-figure scoring. Swarts anchored the team offensively and defensively as Ingle led the team in scoring and assists.
Aalbers showed his mettle in accepting the challenge of guard the opposing team’s best offensive player. Junior Trent Hammond and sophomores Caleb Lawson and Keith Moko had breakout seasons.
Guiding the freshman team was Vanderlaan as the freshmen averaged 49.9 points a game while giving up 38.2 points a contest. Brody Bauer, Carson Satterfield and Cole Plowman were top scorers for the team. Bauer and Plowman were the teams’ leading rebounders.
Alex Thomason dished out 60 assists and made 31 steals, both team highs. Bauer hit 49 3-pointers and Tade Vanderlaan had 12. Drew Thompson drew the defensive challenge of guarding the opponent’s top offensive player.
Newton High’s boys had six seniors and the girls had three seniors on their teams this season. It appears the Cardinal coaches are cultivating the younger players to build strong programs. Both varsities improved on their records — not where they want yet but the foundation has been set.
Vander Velden and Carter have worked to organize and launch the RedBird Basketball Club for Newton girls and boys in third through eighth grades. The teams appeared to flourish in the first year of the program.
Way to go to the coaches, to the younger high school Cardinals and to the future Cardinals.
Contact Jocelyn Sheets at