Dog days of Summer as BHS plays ‘big boys’ tough
A pair of Baldwin High School teams spent June banging the boards and elbows with players from larger schools in the Danny Manning League at Lawrence's Sport-2-Sport.
BHS fielded two teams the Old Dogs, which had eight seniors to be, and the Young Dogs, a seven-man team of juniors and sophomores to be. The Class 4A Dogs went up against the Class 6A giants of Lawrence High and Free State High among others, and played them tough, according to their coaches.
The coaches were former Baldwin High players Adam Wessel, Doyle Murphy and Lance Jeffres.
"I thought we played competitively against every team, no matter what size of school they were," said Wessel, who coached the Old Dogs along with Jeffres. "It gives the kids a chance to see how they stack up against other towns, especially larger towns."
And it wasn't just the Old Dogs, either. Both Wessel and the Young Dogs' coach, Murphy, thought they did extremely well. Both teams were around the .500 mark.
"Going in as the younger team in the division, they didn't play scared," said Murphy. "They weren't afraid to mix it up with Free State, Lawrence High or anybody.
"I thought they did really well. I was proud of them," he said. "They knew they were in games when they played us. They may not of thought much of us when they saw us on the schedule, but we played them tough. We made an impression on a lot of people up there."
Wessel helped out with Young Dogs last Wednesday, the season finale. They played two Free State varsity teams and lost 51-45 in overtime in the first game. It shouldn't have gone into overtime, though, because the Young Dogs got shorted two points in regulation because of a scorekeepers error. In the nightcap against the other Free State team, the Young Dogs fell 32-30 on a last-shot three-pointer. They had a 30-29 lead with 11 seconds left. The Old Dogs fell 60-42 to the same team.
"They (Young Dogs) seem to play a little harder they hustle and get on the floor," said Wessel. "The older team has more talent, but the younger team plays with better fundamentals."
Of course, that's the way Sport-2-Sport basketball goes. It's mostly run-and-gun, and -havin'-fun.
"Not many teams run an offense," said Wessel. "Summer league has always been a chance to play and get up and down the court."
As for the coaches, it was their first real chance to try the other side of the bench. Both Wessel and Murphy are 1999 BHS graduates who played for Bobby Taul. The coach was happy to have them guide his present day Bulldogs.
"I really appreciated those guys coaching," said Taul. "They took time out of their summer to give something back to Baldwin High. That's what building a program is all about."
Murphy believes that's exactly what's going on.
"I think it's important now that it's turning into more of a program," he said. "People are starting to have more ties. The program is getting a lot more respect."
As for the first-time coaches, it was a mixed bag on whether they'd like to make a living that way.
"I'm planning on majoring in education and coaching and so is Lance," said Wessel, who attends the University of Kansas. "I had a good time doing it. It was a good experience, definitely. It's definitely totally different than sitting and watching or playing."
As for Murphy, who attends Creighton University, he's not sure he's ready to be called coach for a living. But, he liked it.
"It was a lot of fun. It was a little intimidating at first to try and talk to them at time outs and get everyone playing time," he said. "I've helped out before, but that's the first time I've had a team. I don't know. It's fun, but I don't think I have the voice for it."
Although both coaches agreed the summer league wasn't about individuals, they both pointed to one player for his extra effort. Tony Zuzzio played for both the Old and Young Dogs after the second week of the season when the Young Dogs had players missing. That meant Zuzzio played four games a night in the Wednesday league.
"He was running four games and played good defense in all of them," said Murphy. "He's really working himself into some playing time. He was a big help."