The Clarence High School boys basketball team may have been behind schedule for most of the preseason but coach Doug Ratka is OK with that. After all, the reason for the delay was many Red Devils were finishing up successful fall sports seasons before they could turn their focus to hoops.
Now, Ratka and the Red Devils hope to continue the success seen in soccer, volleyball and football.
“We have expectations,” Ratka stated, who is set to begin his second season as Clarence’s head coach after 12 as an assistant. “We want to keep getting better and we want to compete. These guys have high expectations especially after the (fall) seasons they just completed. We’re gelling together and excited to see what we can do.”
In the Fall, the boys volleyball team won its first Section VI championship in 17 years while the boys soccer team returned to the top of the section, claiming its sixth crown in eight years. The football team christened its new field in style, winning the Class A North championship.
The basketball team hopes for similar success – even with so many late arrivals.
We’re a work in progress but there’s definitely some talent in this gym,” Ratka said. “We had a late start with some guys. That’s the unfortunate part about having successful Fall seasons. But overall, it’s a good thing. We talked about how fun the volleyball season was, how fun the soccer and football seasons were, so yeah, we definitely want that too.”
Unlike some of the Fall teams, the basketball team enters the season under the radar. The Red Devils lost four starters from last year’s club, which finished 8-13 against a tough large-school schedule.
“Last year, we competed and we won the games we should have won,” Ratka said. “This year, I’d love to get a few that maybe people don’t think we should get.”
A pair of third-year seniors will lead the Red Devils this season in guard Jake Randall and forward Jake Ireland. Another senior, 6-foot-4 forward Jon Trapp is also expected to deliver inside.
Two sophomores will be relied on heavily this season for Clarence. Jack Putney, the football team’s quarterback, is expected to continue his success in the Winter and classmate River Reinhardt is expected to see some heavy minutes at point guard.
“It’s a nice blend of returners and JV talent,” Ratka said. “We’re just trying to get better. Our league is so tough but we’re going to be ready to compete with anyone.”