Rosemount boys' basketball already has half the wins they had in 2017-18 after starting the season 1-2. The Irish beat Minneapolis Southwest 57-44 in its season opener on the road but then dropped two home games to Benilde-St.Margaret's, 65-57, and Woodbury, 61-53.
Head coach Lance Walsten is in his second year leading the program aftering coming to Rosemount from Faribault and he said there are two main differences so far from last year to this season.
"I think two parts, probably familiarity for us, being comfortable with what our expectations as a coaching staff and for the players are," he said. "It just takes time to get comfortable with that part and so having a year of being around the players has helped a lot. And I think the second part for us, our depth of competition within our high school program has improved a lot for us. We're probably not a ton different from our first guy, our best player on our team to our 17th, and that's kind of a good thing and kind of bad thing. We don't have an elite player but at the same time we've got more depth which is helping us in practice and just getting better every day."
The win over Minneapolis Southwest in the season opener saw nine different Irish players score and Walsten singled out two of them for what they have brought to the team so far.
"Well one of the guys who's really stepped up for us, he didn't play any varsity last year but was part of our program is Ben McMenomy, he started for us on Tuesday and he's just worked hard to improve a lot over the summer," Walsten said. "Then Marcus Stephenson started for us as well, both of those guys were JV players last year and have made some improvements in their game and just kind of helping us with some senior leadership."
In Walsten's words, the Irish simply gave up too many points last year while also struggling to score at times. So far this season they have improved in one area but are still searching on the other end.
"A big part for us is just kind of finding the identity of who we want to be and overall I was pretty happy with our defensive effort, that's something that's important in terms of being able to compete on a nightly basis," Walsten said after the win against Minneapolis Southwest. "We held Southwest to 45 points and that's an area where we've really emphasized improvement upon and so the guys just overall, all the players we have throughout the program, really have tried to improve that part from last year."
So far Rosemount has not given up more than 65 points in a game, but they also have not scored more than 57. Last season much of the Irish offense ran through now-graduated Luke Siwek along with the emergence of now-seniors Andrew Reuter and Jacob Siwek, but they struggled. This season the offense will have to adapt without the presence of Luke Siwek.
"We also struggled on the offensive end, so finding again that chemistry as a team of where our points are going to come from," Walsten said about what needs to improve early on so far this season. "Losing Luke Siwek from last year, he's going to Hamline this year, that was a big part of our offense. And so we just have to do it in a little different way this year and guys just needing to step up in that regard."
The Irish had a different leading scorer in their first two games while stats were not available for their loss to Woodbury. However, the offensive output needs to continue to increase if they are going to compete in the South Suburban. Walsten said that his team needs to do better down low and without the single, go-to player will need to "grind it out" and "do things the hard way."
Personally, Walsten said that another big difference between last year and this year for him was being able to use the off-season to get to know his players and team bonding after he was brought in so late last year.
In the win against Minneapolis Southwest, the Irish were led by sophomore center Zach Wenthe in the post who scored 20 points. Reuter had 11, junior Matt Schwinefus nine and junior Nathan Whiting five. At home against Benilde-St.Margaret's, Rosemount had three players in double-figures with Jacob Siwek scoring 16 and Reuter and Wenthe both had 12, while sophomore guard Sean Sullivan added eight.
Rosemount played at Henry Sibley on Tuesday, Dec. 11, as its only game of the week.