Boyne City hoops focuses on cohesiveness with talent throughout lineup again

Boyne City senior guard Mason Wilcox breaks down to guard someone during practice this week in the Boyne City High School gym.
Boyne City senior guard Mason Wilcox breaks down to guard someone during practice this week in the Boyne City High School gym.

BOYNE CITY — There’s different ways to build a basketball team.

Obviously focusing on the fundamentals and of course making sure you can put the ball in the basket are important, but there’s also building cohesion both on and off the court.

Boyne City's Gavin Hewitt turns for a hook shot up over teammate Ryan Spate in practice.
Boyne City's Gavin Hewitt turns for a hook shot up over teammate Ryan Spate in practice.

Coming off a 14-8 season that ended too soon, the Boyne City boys’ basketball team has more than proven to be a basketball savvy group with scorers capable of regular 20-point games, though one of the main things the Ramblers focused on in the offseason was better constructing relationships with each other.

That ranged from getting more time in together on the court, to team bonding away from the gym.

“We invested a lot of time into doing none basketball things,” Boyne City coach Randy Calcaterra said. “We were going all over the state, going to the (Soo) Locks, going to Top Gun and all these things team culture wise. Many of the players were saying, ‘Hey, I feel it. It’s working.’

“We had a summer that was where it should be. We played extremely well together, we really put some things together and were a completely different team than we were last year. We’re hoping that it’s just a continuation from the summer to now.”

With the kind of talent the Ramblers have back this season, a sixth sense for teammates and better relationships aren’t great news for opponents.

Neither is the sheer amount of time that many put into their game in the offseason, from workouts to playing on the AAU circuit across the state and Midwest.

Boyne City guard Alex Calcaterra is one of many back to the Rambler program, loaded once again with talent.
Boyne City guard Alex Calcaterra is one of many back to the Rambler program, loaded once again with talent.

“The time that the top six to seven in the program have put in is second to none in any year I’ve ever been involved,” said Calcaterra. “The top three or four are putting in hours like you can’t even imagine. They’ve put so much in the bank that at some point they’re going to start withdrawing. So that’s exciting.”

The names are ones many have known for years, with a core of players that have seen starting action since their sophomore season in Boyne City.

Boyne City freshman guard Drew Neer follows his shot during practice this week.
Boyne City freshman guard Drew Neer follows his shot during practice this week.

Alex Calcaterra, Mason Wilcox, Gavin Hewitt and Jack Neer all return to the lineup at the guard spot, while coming off big seasons on the football field.

“It’s going to be no secret in our league with what we have at guard. Gavin Hewitt had a phenomenal summer,” said Calcaterra. “Jack had a great summer and put a ton of time in and the time Alex has put in is incredible. Mason Wilcox had a great summer and AAU season.”

It’ll take some time for Neer, a standout shooter from beyond the arc and a creator with the ball in his hands, to get back into the lineup, as he works back from an injury during the fall. Neer could miss the first few weeks, making for a slow progression into the season for Boyne.

“Obviously a major loss and we’re not going to be as strong as we would have been with him. We’re going to have to realize that we’re not starting at full strength and it’ll be a process to build up to that,” said Calcaterra. “I think that can cause some frustration for the team and him and it’s something where they have to learn how to peak at the right time.”

Boyne City's Chas Stanek gets a shot up over teammate Mason Wilcox during practice this week.
Boyne City's Chas Stanek gets a shot up over teammate Mason Wilcox during practice this week.

Just like he did on the football field, Jack’s brother, Drew, will step in to help with the loss, while Ryan Spate also returns to the guard spot and provides some energy.

The Ramblers won’t overpower anyone with size, though there’s some height inside and some talented players Calcaterra is looking forward to seeing fight for rebounds and do some dirty work for points.

“Jacob Johnson has put on 10-15 pounds of muscle and had a fantastic summer and season on the football field,” he said. “He’s starting to finish now and we’re thrilled with his progress. Chas Stanek, a crazy explosive jumper. He’s one of the guys at the top of the list putting time in. Jaden Alger, he was a tall and lanky freshman last year and then it just started to click and he hit the spring AAU and he started to turn heads. He’s still a sophomore, there’s a long ways to go, but it’s exciting.”

The top of the Lake Michigan Conference, with teams like Elk Rapids and Traverse City St. Francis, Boyne City also included in there, will be strong again, though the Ramblers knew they had to turn elsewhere to get some challenging games in as well.

Boyne City head coach Randy Calcaterra watches players run through a drill during practice this week.
Boyne City head coach Randy Calcaterra watches players run through a drill during practice this week.

They’ll take on both Marquette and Negaunee over the winter break, meet St. Ignace and Sault Ste. Marie early, while also meeting Gaylord and Petoskey out of the Big North.

“I’m trying to generate a none-conference schedule that really, really pushes us,” added Calcaterra.

The season gets started on Tuesday, Dec. 6 at St. Ignace, part of an early stretch that has the Ramblers on the road for five of their first six games before January. The first home game comes against the Sault on Thursday, Dec. 8.

With all the work his guys have put into getting better and leaving their Rambler careers as one of the best teams to come through, Calcaterra can’t help but be proud and ready to get things going.

“As a coach, you can’t help but be excited about that,” he added. “Hopefully it just starts click on the floor for them.”

This article originally appeared on The Petoskey News-Review: Boyne City hoops focuses on cohesiveness with talent throughout lineup again