Oakville boys’ team boasts plenty of depth

By ROBERT CHALUPNY

For the Call

The defending conference champion Oakville Senior High School boys’ basketball team will have some big shoes to fill in 2011-2012 after losing two top starters to graduation, but looks to have plenty of depth to do so.

Tigers head coach Nick Traxler, who is entering his sixth season and led Oakville to the district championship game last season, told the Call that depth will be the key ingredient to success this year.

“There is more depth this year than we had last year. We had two guys that had been on both of our final four teams back last year — only two of them that could put the ball in the hole consistently,” Traxler said. “This year, I think that we’ve got at least seven or eight guys that can put the ball in the hole consistently. They just need experience at the varsity level.”

Austin Gillmann, the 6-foot-10-inch starting center, is the only returning starter from last season.

“Last year we had to rely on two guys. This year, I think we’ve got … six, seven, eight guys that can share the scoring load, which will make a significant difference by the end of the season if they come together and team chemistry is good,” Traxler said.

High expectations are not unusual for the Tigers, who will be defending their title.

“Every year we say compete for a conference title, compete for a district championship and try to get better than you were the last game that you played,” Traxler said.

So the Tigers will be looking to Gillmann as well Austin Cibulka and Alec McChesney — both guards — to fill the leadership role on the team.

“Austin and Alec will lead us and the nice thing for us is that Alec was the goalie on the soccer team that was in the state final,” Traxler said.” So that experience and his athleticism will definitely help us out this year.”

The coach also has high hopes for Ervin Sarajlic, a 6-foot-4-inch shooting guard, and sophomore point guard Tristan Buckhaulter — “a transfer from Macon, Mo., but he played varsity last year in Macon.”

“So we could potentially start three sophomores,” he said. “I think our best basketball will be at the end of the season, which is usually Oakville’s mantra anyway and we’ll work that way and hopefully our conference will prepare us for the district title.”

Traxler told the Call that he knows his squad will face several challenges early on the season, but hopes it will prepare the Tigers for battle in the postseason.

“I think for us to be successful — we play a murderous schedule, very tough competition throughout the entire year — we’ve got to maintain our confidence through the earlier part of the season because it’s very brutal as far as the schedule is concerned,” he said.

“It will tax us and that’s what we want because we want to be able to go into late January and into February knowing that we’ve played very, very good teams to prepare us for the districts that come at the end of the season,” he added.

The Tigers will take on Belvidere North in their season opener at 7 p.m. today — Dec. 8 — at Webster.