Woodland Hills boys basketball team must mature fast
Odell Miller took over the as the boys basketball coach at Woodland Hills last season looking to bring stability to a program that has had three coaches over the past six years.
While last season was not what he and the Wolverines were hoping for with a 4-17 (0-14 in WPIAL section 2-AAAA) record in his inaugural campaign, Miller believes his team has built a solid foundation.
“My kids last year played hard, but I attribute last year to the fact that this program had about, I don't know what it is, five or six coaches in the last 12 years,” Miller said. “You had a situation like that, you don't have any consistency, and that's what I attribute that to.
“We probably could have won some more games, but the fact that I was the new guy trying to get some consistency and build some discipline within the program, that's where it's all going to start with us is getting some discipline and doing things the right way.”
Miller, a former Woodland Hills assistant football coach, enters this season with a young roster who has bought into what he is trying to instill. With three freshmen on the varsity roster and 11 total sophomores on the junior varsity and varsity rosters combined, there is no shortage of youth.
“We're going to be a very young squad, and I'm pretty high on some of my young kids,” Miller said. “I have some young kids I think are going to be OK after a couple years. They'll play some JV minutes and get some varsity experience.
“The kids are real committed ,and they have talent. I'm looking forward to the future, and I'm real excited about things because my kids are excited,” he said. “They come to practice. They work hard.”
Despite its opening game being this Friday in the Pine-Richland Tournament, two of Woodland Hills' projected starters barely have even started practicing with the team after playing on the Wolverines football team that advanced to the WPIAL championship.
Sophomore small forward Jo-El Shaw and senior point guard Chris David, who returns after missing last season with a torn ACL, will provide the Wolverines with a boost in the starting lineup after transitioning over from the gridiron.
They will join freshman shooting guard Deontae Robertson, senior power forward Ramir Childs and 6-foot-5 senior center Brian Baker in the starting five.
Miller cited that he will count on the senior Childs to be a team leader, along with another unlikely source.
“I'm looking for the leadership to come from Ramir Childs, and believe it or not, my young freshman Deontae is probably going to have to step up at a young age,” Miller said. “I'm looking for those two to really lead us.”
While just a freshman, Miller believes Robertson has the tools to be a special player before his four years there are over.
“He has a lot of talent, and I think before it's all said and done people are going to realize he's a good player,” Miller said. “It won't be this year, but I think by his junior year, people are going to remember the name Deontae Robertson.”
While Miller knows that a WPIAL title is not won overnight, he has set basic expectations for his team this season to simply improve each time it takes the floor.
“Just to get better with each game,” Miller said. “Prepare for each game and go out, play hard, and hopefully things will work out.”
Alex Oltmanns is a freelance writer.