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EMCS Wolverines look to the future

Sooke high school basketball team makes quick exit from South Island basketball finals
Wolverines guard Nacho Antonutti plays defence against a Mount Doug Rams player during a tournament game at EMCS in December.

Wolverines star centre Alec McKenzie and point guard Nacho Antonutti played the final game of their high school basketball careers at the double-A South Island basketball finals two weeks ago.

The two Edward Milne Community School students graduate in June and leave a team amid a four-year rebuilding program.

Along with Antonutti and McKenzie, the Wolverines will see the departure of seven senior players this year. Six players are expected to return next season.

“Nacho and Alec are special kids who don’t come along very often,” Wolverines coach Alex Wright said.

“Alec was one of the more exciting players in the league. Nacho was a phenomenal defender and on the offensive end was never bothered by pressure.”

Still, the Wolverines now look to the future after finishing an “under achieved” season, as Wright put it, placing fifth in the South Island playoffs.

Last year, longtime Wolverines coach Trevor Bligh stepped down to take over the juniors with the idea to establish a program that would eventually feed into the senior team.

Next year’s junior team will be solid, and in the following year some of those players are expected to make the jump to the senior team.

“For the program to work we need continuity. The programs need to be similar so none of these kids are surprised when they come up. I’m not going to throw anything at them they haven’t already heard,” Wright said.

It’s a model that’s used across the province and has produced powerhouse high school basketball programs from Oak Bay to Prince George.

But it takes time.

“Many of the players we get at the senior level are still learning the game, and that’s what needs work,” Wright said.

And the Wolverines won’t always have the likes of McKenzie and Antonutti.

“I do think, as a group, the chemistry going forward will be what drives them. I don’t need 29 points out of one guy, but if I can 12 points out of three different guys that works just as well for me,” Wright said.

It means Wright will use his bench more.

“The Grade 10’s we are getting next year are the first group of kids that have been playing basketball for a little bit more, but still there are a few in there who need to come up and learn on the fly.”