First-year Brookfield East boys basketball coach Matt Malett deserved a better fate. Somewhere, somehow, Malett must have felt like he ticked off the basketball gods.
Malett began the year with two of his top three players on the sidelines. Guard/forward Brian Smith and forward Mike Novak were coming off leg/ankle and forearm injuries.
Smith, who initially thought about skipping the season because of his injury to focus on track and football (he signed with the University of Minnesota), came back for the seventh game. He played two games, reinjured his leg and then called it a season.
Novak missed the first nine games of the year (East had a 3-6 record), before returning and giving the lineup a huge offensive boost and was able to take some of the pressure off point guard Ryan McBride.
Tied for seventh
The Spartans finished the season with an overall 8-15 record, tied for seventh in the Greater Metro Conference with West Allis Hale, each with 3-11 marks.
"It was a challenge because of the adversity," Malett said. "Not having all our guys in the rotation initially. We had higher expectations which were not met."
"Another challenge was figuring out a game plan and teaching the kids to play the game better, stay mentally sound. Things were coming together. I enjoyed being around the guys with the daily grind and playing on Tuesday and Friday.."
When it came to season highlights, Malett was quick to talk about how his team developed.
"We improved as the season went on and came together as a team," he said. "The last month we started to play really good basketball."
The Spartans suffered eight losses by 26 points (3.2 margin), losing three at the buzzer.
"I hate the word 'almost,'" Malett said. "There are no moral victories. I was pleased with our execution against Milwaukee King (in regional semifinal). We executed the game plan pretty well, but we ran out of games."
Looking back, ahead
Malett will be losing some key people to graduation - Novak, McBride, Jonathan McGinley, Mike Eberle, Jacob Wiesmueller and Steven Tongas.
"These guys were not only good players, but good student athletes who represented our school well on a day-to-day basis," Malett said.
Malett praised his two best players, Novak (18.4 points) and McBride (10.7), not only for their play but their leadership, on and off the court. He also had some comments on his other four seniors.
"I thought Wiesmueller brought some good off-the-ball skills to the table," he said. "He was a good transition player. I had a chance to coach many of the Tongas family throughout the program. Steve played good defense for us and gave us a boost as our chaser against the other team's big scorer.
"McGinley was a blue-collar guy, who did a lot of the dirty work. He got some big rebounds and he played about 28 minutes a game. I love Eberle as a person. He was a steady player for us. He didn't make a lot of mistakes and shot well for us. He has a good feel for the game. "He's a fine kid to coach. He's tough and gives a huge effort every single night. He is a very unselfish player."
Some key returnees include guards Josh Bryd (7.6), Kyle Martin (5.2) and Corey Smith (5.2).
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