Richardson sees ‘progress’ in first season at Wooster

Richardson sees ‘progress’ in first season at Wooster
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Che Richardson took over Wooster High’s boys basketball program after serving as an assistant at Canton McKinley, his alma mater. Richardson, also a collegiate standout at Walsh, is a guidance counselor at Edgewood Middle School.

                        

In his first year on the job as Wooster’s boys basketball coach, Che Richardson isn’t looking to rebuild. Just build.

The former Canton McKinley assistant knew his immediate climb would be uphill. Such is life for a first-year coach. Not many take over an established program; coaches tend to leave when the leaving’s good.

Not that the Generals were dregs. They were 11-14 a year ago and a .500 team in the 2021-22 season. They have some talent, but it needs to be developed.

Based on that, the results haven’t been awful. Heading into the week, the Generals were 6-12 overall, 5-7 in the Ohio Cardinal Conference.

“I would say we’ve made a lot of progress,” Richardson said. “For me, starting in early-June, we’ve tried to figure out through summer stuff what our needs were and what we need to work on. Honestly, we didn’t get an idea until we had our group of guys that were going to play. We needed to figure out what we needed to work on and what we do well.”

Richardson has gone with an eight- or nine-man rotation most of the season. Junior Brady Bowen was the Generals’ top scorer at nearly 16 points per game. Classmate Anthony Carmean was next at 8.6 as Wooster looked for someone to emerge as a No. 2 option.

Bowen also is the team’s top rebounder, averaging 4.2 per outing, slightly ahead of sophomore Tre Edwards (4.0) and senior Aidan Holford (3.7). Bowen also has been the team’s top playmaker at nearly four assists per contest. Senior Anthony Sines, at 2.2, was the only other Wooster player with more than two per game, but he’s out for the season after getting shoulder surgery to fix a football injury.

Like most coaches do, Richardson is leaning on his upperclassmen. While the team is inexperienced as a whole, Wooster’s seniors make up enough of the rotation to have at least somewhat of a veteran presence on the floor at most times.

“It’s been about growth for them,” Richardson said of his seniors. “In years past they didn’t have to lean as much as we’re leaning on them this year. We’ve leaned on them as far as leading this team in the right direction, building new habits, things like that.”

Richardson also is leaning on his coaching staff. The assistants, like the seniors, take a lot of pressure off him as he makes his way through year No. 1 at the helm.

“I think I was kind of warned about this; every decision is made by you because you’re the guy,” he said. “That’s something that’s definitely helped me grow as a coach as far as making those difficult decisions.

“They’ve been amazing. My staff has been great. There’s always something I can go to after games and bounce ideas off of them about. They’ve helped me personally as a coach grow. It’s amazing, just the things I don’t think about that they’re thinking about, just little details that cross my mind. They’ve definitely helped me with that as far as seeing it from a head-coaching lens and not so much an assistant as I did before.”

The Generals have been competitive. Nearly half their losses were by single digits in the first 18 games. They’ve hit a bit of a cold snap lately, losing 7-of-8 contests.

In rankings provided by the Ohio High School Athletic Association, Wooster stood 57th among 76 Division I teams in Northeast Ohio. They’ll find out where that lands them in terms of sectional and district play when those brackets are announced on Feb. 11.

The computer-generated ranking may actually help the Generals, who are about the least Northeast team among the six Northeast districts.

“I see it from both sides,” Richardson said. “The hard part for Wooster is because there’s not that many Div. I schools from our conference, we would get the short end of the stick in terms of votes (in the past). So for us, I think it helps us.”

Among Richardson’s biggest challenges in the early going has been remembering to keep a balance between coaching and life, which includes being a middle school guidance counselor this year.

“That’s always tough,” he said. “I know in season it’s hard. You are always trying to figure things out as a team and trying to answer what questions you have for yourself.”

As for his day job at Edgewood Middle School, that’s been an adjustment too. In the past he was a high school counselor.

“It’s different being a counselor for middle school students,” he said. “But everyone’s been so welcoming here, helping me find my place in the school.”

Wooster Athletic Director Alex Mallue commended Richardson for the team’s progress throughout the coach’s first year.

“Coach Richardson is excelling in building positive, meaningful relationships with his student-athletes, and he is laying the groundwork for his program to be successful for years to come,” he said. “Coach Richardson expects 100% effort from his players each and every day, and you can tell that they have bought into his program and are working very hard day in and day out.”

From Richardson’s point of view, everything is going as planned. There were going to be some growing pains, and his team has seen that. He hopes it’s all part of a process and that this is just step one in that direction.

“There’s no expectations for this group to do well or make it deep in tournament,” he said. “Anything we do, honestly, we’re ahead of schedule.”


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