BELVIDERE — After winning its only NIC-10 title in 2013, winning its only back-to-back regional titles in 2016-17 and having its first back-to-back 20-win seasons in more than 70 years in 2013-14, Belvidere bottomed out at 6-24 last year.
And that was the Bucs’ best record.
“The whole program only won nine games last year,” first-year coach Brian Koehne said of the Bucs going 2-20 at the sophomore level and 1-15 with their freshmen team. “There is some building we need to do.
“We like what our sophomores have done in the summer. We didn’t win a lot of games, but there are a lot of smart players at that level. We’re trying to develop their skills. We have some athletic kids at the freshman level. They are still trying to grasp what we’re looking for, but we like our lower levels.
“In January you should see our guys take off as they feel more familiar with the program.”
The Bucs return only two starters and will compete against a deeper-than-usual NIC-10 field where Harlem, Guilford and Belvidere North look improved after finishing in the lower half of the league last year.
“These first few games will tell us a lot about ourselves, but I like what we’ve got,” Koehne said. “We’re not very big, but we have some decent length. We’re looking to run a lot of motion on offense and move the ball quickly. We’re not going to be a full-go fastbreak team, but we want to pick our moments to push the ball and be opportunistic in transition.
“Defensively, we will mix it up, but everything will be based off man-to-man.”
Matt Trowbridge: 815-987-1383; firstname.lastname@example.org; @matttrowbridge
Bucs at a glance
Coach: Brian Koehne (1st year)
Last season: 6-24 (3-13)
Returning starters: Zach Tobler (5-11 Sr. G), Adrion Dalipi (6-3 Sr. F).
Other key players: Zarius Dent (6-4 Sr. F), Steven King (6-0 Sr. G/F), Kaleb Buse (6-2 Jr. G), Austin Hausen (5-10 Sr. G).
Strengths: Work ethic, toughness, senior leadership.
Weaknesses: Lack of size, outside shooting, big learning curve with a new system.
Outlook: The Bucs are big unknowns with a new coach and only two returning starters. “It may take us a while before we are hitting on all cylinders, but we feel like we can be competitive in a very strong conference," coach Brian Koehne said.