NEN boys

The 2018-2019 Northeast Nodaway boys basketball team is front row from left: Nathan Schieber, Brayden Munns, Lane Dack, Ben Boswell, Rory Breadlow, Colton Swalley; back row: Chet Spire, Dylan Vore, Spencer Weir, Mitchell Sherry, Ethan Adwell and Drew Wiederholt. Not pictured: Chase Atkins, Reed McIntyre, Austin Pride and Zach Pride.

When a new coach takes over a program, it is always important to identify a leader on the court to set the tone for that new coach’s vision. For new Northeast Nodaway coach Rory Jackson, a lot of that on-court leadership responsibility will fall to senior Spencer Weir. 

“I try to do my best because I know people look up to me,” Weir said of the leadership proponent. “I try to motivate everybody, talk all the time and work my hardest so that they will work as hard as I’m trying to show them.”

Weir, the only returning starter for the Bluejays, was the team’s leading scorer last season with a 15-point-per-game average and may have to raise that average this season with the lack of experience around him. 

“I’m pretty excited,” Weir said. “I think we are going to have a pretty solid team with a strong offensive core. The defense is coming around. We are running a lot to put us in shape so we can obviously press if we need to.”

The Bluejays are looking to improve on a 17-10 record last season are focused on conditioning early in Jackson’s initial practices and hope that it will help them come playoff time after they lost in the district semifinals last season. 

“We aren’t going to lose games because they are out of shape, that is for sure,” Jackson said. “We aren’t going to get tired.”

Jackson has been impressed with how his team has embraced that.

“It has been exciting,” Jackson said. “The kids have been working really hard. They come in every day and give me 100 percent, so that is really all you can ask for.”

Jackson has plenty of head coaching experience going into this opportunity and in his three seasons as the head coach at North Andrew from 2011-2014, he was 64-21 with three conference championships. They hadn’t won a conference title in 13 years prior to his arrival. 

“We really haven’t focused on a lot of goals,” Jackson said. “We’ve just focused on our attitude and effort. If we come in with the right attitude, the right effort and work hard every day, we should have the outcome we want.”

Weir will likely have the ball in his hands more this season with point guard Dylan Mildfeldt graduating. Mildfeldt averaged 14.2 points last season.

“Most of the offense is centered around getting to the bucket, getting fouled if you have to and putting it in,” Weir said. “I love it.”

The Bluejays also must find a way to replace the production of center Eli Scroggie who averaged 13.4 points and 6.5 rebounds per game last season. Senior Dylan Vore is the leading candidate to step into that role and make a jump in production. 

“Those are some big shoes to be filled,” Vore said.

Vore is the team’s second-leading returning scorer with a 3.4 per-game average. He also grabbed 2.2 rebounds a game. 

Also vying to fill one of those spots in the lineup is the third senior on the team, Chet Spire. Spire played limited minutes on the basketball court, but the outstanding athlete was a star for the Bluejays on the baseball diamond. The Jays hope to translate some of the success to the court this season. 

“There is a lot of difference,” Spire said. “We have a new coach and we are going to have four new starters. A lot of things are going to be different and there are going to be a lot of opportunities for guys to fill.”

Around their seniors, the Bluejays will rely on contributions from junior Mitchell Sherry, junior Reed McIntyre, junior Ethan Adwell and sophomore Levi Boulting. 

“I’m proud of all of them,” Weir said. “We’ve all been working and we all have the same goal. … The same goal that pretty much every team has. At least make it to state.”

The Jays will play in the Platte Valley Invitational next week. They open against Stewartsville on Monday at 5:30 p.m. in Union Star.