Wilson named as Frazier's basketball coach
PERRYOPOLIS - Larry Wilson took a Frazier football team that went 1-7 in 2001 and twisted them into a squad that made the Class-A playoffs in 2002.
Now, Frazier will be banking on 2003 being twice as nice.
Wilson, 27, was recently named the Commodores' new boys basketball coach. The Frazier alumnus and former three-sport athlete will now pull double duty as head coach in both sports. The basketball job had been vacant since P.J. Malloy stepped down in February following consecutive 5-19 seasons.
"I don't know if it's a call for congratulations, but we'll see," Wilson said. "I'm sure it's going to be a real challenge, but I'm a young guy, I live in town; I am getting married this summer, but my fiancee knows my love for sports."
That devotion to athletics has lugged Wilson into this sudden juggling act, but he said being dually accessible to basketball and football players will strengthen both programs.
"You can really work on the school district as one by working with the two main sports; the advantage is that I'm always there," said Wilson, who was an assistant coach for a year at Ringgold under Scott Venick.
"It takes a person to be dedicated, but once the kids see you're committed to being there, they'll work just as hard."
If enthusiasm and raw zeal won games, you could mark both Commodore teams down for undefeated seasons. However, Wilson knows it will take more - much more - to compete with such a small pool of students. For example, next year's senior class at Frazier will feature just 23 boys.
To counter that, Wilson has a plan. Step one: four days of lifting weights after school. As of this week, Wilson already has about two dozen football and basketball players paying their dues.
"In order to compete, especially when you're limited, you have to recruit, and you have to lift weights," Wilson said. "We don't turn anyone away from workouts, no matter what they look like or what their ability is."
Following the weight training comes step two. Wilson will hold additional sessions with plyometric training two days a week and an open gym on the two others. The sport-specific workouts will focus on quick bursts of power.
"To sum it up, when you go through a plyometric workout, it makes you a better athlete," Wilson said. "We're simulating the work of athletics."
Step three will be assigning freshmen to play on the junior high team.
Wilson said fewer ninth graders will be scared away by the sometimes drastic transformation to varsity.
"They're not mature enough physically to be on a field or in a locker room with 18-year-olds, so you lose a lot of kids that way," Wilson said. "My main thing was to look into the future and what it takes to have a solid program and to be successful year on top of year; you want ninth graders to excel."
"It might come back to bite me - but you have to come up through the program; you can't come out in 11th grade and expect to excel on a football field."
Wilson will also be forever combing the Frazier hallways searching for that next diamond, or even third-string backup, in the rough.
"I had kids come over from band asking 'Why do you want me,' but we've developed kids who've never thought they could be football players," Wilson noted. "After a year of lifting and plyometrics, they change physically, then mentally, they change.
"It's tough because you need raw numbers; I wish I didn't have to recruit kids every day and worry about numbers, but that's what we have to do."
It seems Wilson will administrate with the same pall-mall effort that made him an undersized all-state receiver for the Commodores and an overachieving walk-on who eventually started at Slippery Rock.
"When you work with a small group of kids, you get a rep; they know my attitude and my work ethic," Wilson said. "We had 20 guys at open gym tonight, and that was after a workout."
Football may be the concentration right now, but basketball won't be easy after losing athletic point guard T.J. Martinak and smooth, 6-foot-5 center Riely Tidholm.
"There's no 6-5 kid coming back who knows the game of basketball, and Martinak was your floor general," Wilson admitted. "But there are some kids coming back with ability to play Frazier style of basketball - the kind of aggressive, go-get-'em basketball that was there when I played. We will play that way again."
Wilson acknowledges there will be those in the district who doubt one man can handle both duties - no matter the dedication, the rep or the one-win squad turned playoff team.
"I'm sure I'm going to get a ton of that, and maybe they're right, maybe not; I'm not going to sit here and say I'm going to be a WPIAL champion in two years," Wilson said. "When I think of kids that can develop themselves in our program, go on to college and better themselves in the community, that's what it's all about."