It has been 262 days since the Glenwood Boys Basketball team first hoisted the Class 3A State Championship trophy. Fresh off a magical year where they won their final 11 games en route to a state title, Glenwood looks to continue its success headed into the 2018-19 season.
In spite of the storybook ending, the Rams did not spend their entire summer polishing their rings, according to head coach Curt Schulte.
“We had a really good offseason,” Schulte said. “We had really good open gyms, the guys hit the weights pretty hard, and we played some really good competition in our leagues in the summer.”
After graduating a senior class that featured four starters and arguably the two best basketball players in school history, the Rams will be looking to reload their lineup with a new group of talented players coupled with some of the more experienced assets. Schulte mentioned the likes of Christian Stanislav, Dax Lappala, Ryan Leath, Cade Van Ness, Jack Hughes, Zach Carr and Ryan Blum as key contributors on the varsity floor, with others possibly getting in the mix as the season progresses.
Stanislav, who rather quietly led the team in scoring last year, will be pegged as one of the top players in the Hawkeye Ten headed into his final season. The 6-foot-5 senior averaged 15.3 points per game and had several clutch performances during Glenwood’s postseason run, including the sub-state matchup against Harlan in which he nearly recorded a triple-double.
“[Stanislav] has a different role this year compared to what he has had in the last three years,” said Schulte of his star forward. “I’m excited for him, he’s really looked good this week in our scrimmages, sharing the ball and taking good shots. It’ll be exciting to see what Christian does this year.”
A humble Stanislav has his sights set on improving the team as a whole, in hopes of carrying on Glenwood’s recently established tradition of winning.
“This year I just want to be the best team leader I can be,” Stanislav said. “I want to make the players on my team better everyday.”
A few others from Schulte’s list stand out on paper. Blum, who averaged just over six points per game last season, will look to play a major role in his first year as a starter. Though he came off the bench through the duration of his freshman year, Blum essentially kept the Rams alive in the postseason when he dropped a team-high 17 points in Glenwood’s historic comeback win over Norwalk in the state quarterfinals.
Carr was also a key to Glenwood’s success in the 2017-18 season. The junior guard averaged 7.3 points off the bench and played stifling defense against some of the best players the state had to offer.
It seems the Rams have all the pieces for another electrifying year. However, Stanislav believes the first stretch of games prior to the winter break will be critical for finding their identity as a team and working out the chinks that inevitably accompany a fresh group of players.
“I think our goals for the first part of the season are to win our first couple games and start creating chemistry with some of the guys that played JV last year,” said Stanislav. “I've seen a lot of potential in this team in the offseason. We have been playing really good defense in practice and scrimmages and that's going to be a big key to our success this season.”
Success is something Glenwood has gotten used to, but that can sometimes come with its woes. The Rams will find themselves near the top of most preseason polls, thus finding a large target on their back as well.
“We know we have a target on us this year and we can't take any team for granted. In my eyes, being tagged as a top team in 3A gives us more motivation to do what we did last year,” said Stanislav.
Schulte’s focus remains short-term, even in the midst of the high expectations that his team may receive as the season gets underway.
“We’ve talked about it quite a bit as a team,” Schulte said of the hype surrounding the Rams. “Our approach is again like it is every year: getting better day-by-day and game-by-game. Really our only focus right now is TJ on November 27th.”
That game at Thomas Jefferson is Glenwood’s season opener. The Rams routed the Yellow Jackets a year ago and will look to do the same Tuesday night. As for the rest of the schedule, the Hawkeye Ten Conference is always competitive, and Glenwood will look to defend their crown against a host of hungry teams in southwest Iowa.
“The conference is gonna be really good,” Schulte said. “I think up and down the schedule we’ve just got to be ready for everyone we play, no matter who it is.”
Schulte noted that Lewis Central, Kuemper and Harlan will be the most plausible squads to dethrone Glenwood as Hawkeye Ten champions; a group of teams that all failed to beat the Rams last season.
“I saw a lot of dedication and commitment from the kids over the past six months,” said Schulte. “I think we’re ready to get going and see what we got.”
The Rams tip off the new season on the road against Thomas Jefferson Tuesday, followed by a home date with the Creston Panthers Friday night.