GRAND ISLAND — When you talk to Grand Island boys basketball coach Nate Beutel, it’s hard to decide who is more excited for the new season: The players or the coach.
While the team gets ready for the season to begin, the former Gazette sports reporter will get his first crack at leading a high school basketball team, and he’s ready to get started.
“This is a thrill for me,” Beutel said. “I know I’m young and some people may not think I’m ready for this job, but I think I am. I think that we’re going to build something here.”
The first-year head coach sees just one starter return from last season, which saw the Vikings upset by Bennett in the first round of the playoffs.
“It’s a clean slate,” Beutel said. “There are plenty of kids who didn’t get the opportunity to play last year that could work themselves into the lineup.”
Senior forward Steve Vitello will lead the Vikings into a tough Niagara Frontier League schedule, but Beutel said the senior captain is ready for the workload.
“Steve Vitello is clearly our top player,” Beutel said. “He is going to be relied upon to carry the load for us on both ends of the floor.”
Grand Island will have guard Ben Tomkins and forward Liam Dodd round out the team’s captaincy, and senior forward Tom Dzielski will hope to dominate the boards for the Vikings.
A pair of juniors hope to make a big impact for Grand Island, with forward Dylan Kelly up from the JV squad and guard Jon Voyzey in the mix as well. Beutel hopes that Kelly will take some pressure off of Steve Vitello, and with some confidence he could be the difference this season.
Beutel said while he likes what he’s seen from his team’s half court offense in scrimmages, but knows that defense will be the Vikings’ strength early in the season.
“We’re going to be defense-oriented for sure,” Beutel said. “Our offensive abilities are a little behind our defense, so we’re certainly going to rely upon our defense.”
While Beutel admits many people don’t expect much from Grand Island this season, he said that means the Vikings have plenty to prove on the court.
“I think we just want to compete,” he said. “We certainly know a lot of people around the league, in the section, in our class don’t expect a whole lot of us. But that doesn’t mean we don’t expect things out of ourselves.”
High expectations or not, the rookie coach said he’s very happy about the effort his team has shown getting ready for the season.
“The kids work extremely hard,” Beutel said. “They’re great kids and they want to get better and they want to win games. You can’t ask for anything more than that."