Winter WI - It's 6:00AM in Winter, Wisconsin and 13 young men are toed up on the circle in the middle of the high school gymnasium. They huddle into a circle to begin what is called, "Warrior Week." Warrior Week is an intensive week of training and development, much similar to that of "Hell Week" for a lot of collegiate programs. Virginia Commonwealth University partners with the Navy Seals to help them construct a grueling 5-day period of multiple workouts, conditioning, and mind breaking challenges. This caught on quickly, and the likes of the Michigan State Spartans, Utah Utes, San Diego State Aztecs, and many other teams started to follow suit.
Fortunately for the Winter Boys, their Warrior Week only includes a series of skill development drills. The sessions are from 6:00AM to 7:40AM, because let's remember that we are dealing with students and children still. They have to be good students, and arrive to class on time, ready, and eager to soak up knowledge. Once the bell rings at 3:15PM, they are to report to the gymnasium once more for a 3:30PM to 5:30PM session where more skill development drills ensue. This process repeats Monday through Friday for the first week.
Getting Creative with Development
Coach Joshua "Hootie" Hautamaki states, "This is what we did when I played, this is what others did before I played, and we're just returning some of that tradition to the Winter Boys Basketball program." The boys dart up, and down the court in 2 minute segments at breakneck speeds completing layup drills, passing drills, shooting drills, and ball handling drills. "We don't have the luxury of a C-Team or Junior Varsity, so a lot of our freshmen and first year players don't have the opportunity to develop in environments with similar skilled athletes. They're thrown into the fire, and we are doing what we feel is best to prepare them to compete. The boys go from playing Middle School as a 7th grader and 8th grader, scoring points, they're the main scorer, main ball handler, and playing kids their own age. Then, after 8th grade, they have to play against kids that are 3 and 4 years older than them, and are expected to compete. That's not fair. So, we place a strong emphasis on skill development" states Coach Hootie.
History of Winter Warriors Boys Basketball
In the 2022-2023 season, the Winter Warriors finished the season with a 13-13 record. That's an average season for most teams, but if you look a little deeper, you'll see that the last decade included seasons with wins of 1, 2 and even some as high as 3. The Winter Warriors Boys Basketball program has been a perennial 2 win team for the last 12 years. In the 1990s, the Winter Warriors Boys Basketball program was very strong. The banners in the gymnasium indicate they had won multiple conference and regional championships. However, in the 2000s, those teams seemed to have faded into the darkness. In 2011, the team had won an astonishing 16 games with a 16-8 record, but lost in the first round of the playoffs. The following year in 2012, the Warriors boys team had won 12 games, but again lost in the first round of the playoffs. However, in the 2022-2023 season, the Winter Warriors Boys Basketball program was 5-11 going into the last stretch of the season averaging 65.9 points per game, and giving up 71.4 points per game. However, in the last 10 games, the Winter boys went 8-2, averaging 78.2 points per game, and giving up 73.1 points per game. The Winter Warriors Boys Basketball program also won their first playoff game in over two decades with a 94-82 victory over Bayfield. The Regional semifinal game was against #4 ranked Solon Springs, and the Warriors fell short with a 68-91 score.
A Look Under the Hood
In the fall of 2022 Joshua "Hootie" Hautamaki accepted the Winter Boys Basketball varsity coach position. Hootie is a life-long resident of Radisson, Wisconsin and devout sports enthusiast for the Winter School, helping in any capacity that he can. This may include providing transportation to and from games, stepping in to fill a coaching spot for little league baseball, youth volleyball, youth basketball, or any other area that needs help. The school board turned to Hootie for some help, once again. Hootie accepted the Boys Varsity Basketball position and brought local skill development trainer Curtis DeCora with him. DeCora and Hautamaki are both highly involved in a local club known as, 'Rising Stars Basketball'. This club places a strong emphasis on developing the ability for athletes to pass, dribble, and shoot regardless of age, heigh, weight, sex, etc.
The practices were fast paced, and games were just as fast. The seats started to fill up with fans to come and watch the 'fastest show on the hardwood.' Winter, for the last decade averaged 32.4 points per game and were now averaging 78.2 points per game with the new run and gun style of play. The boys were posting numbers receiving national attention. 2024 F, Gunnar Greuel was a 2x national player of the week nominee by PrepHoops, and went on to be Wisconsin's Rebound, a title that has never been held in Winter Warrior prep boys basketball history. Gunnar also received his 500 rebound basketball from the WIAA. Gunnar finished the 2022-2023 season with 496 rebounds, and is closing in on 1,000 career rebounds. Another achievement was the 1,000 Point Club for then Senior guard, Albert Blair. Albert finished with 1,163 points and is forever enshrined into the 1,000 Point Club which can be viewed at the Just-A-Game Fieldhouse in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin. Gunnar Greuel is just 352 points away from joining the 1,000 Point Club and just 217 rebounds away from reaching 1,000 rebounds. Other notable achievements include Sophomore, Carter Petit, finishing with 90 steals, placing him 11th in Division 5.
2023-2024 Season Preview
The Winter Warriors Boys Basketball team returns Wisconsin's Rebound King, Gunnar Greuel, in his senior campaign following a 1st Team All-Conference selection, and Junior, Carter Petit, following his Honorable Mention All-Conference selection. Other returning players include (Sr) CJ Thompson, (Jr) Adam Bednorski, (Jr) Dakota Holm, (Sr) Cole Petit, (Sr) Sawyer Melchert.
Newcomers to the Winter Warriors Boys Basketball team include foreign exchange student, (Sr) Malte Colliander, (Fr) Kingston Frey, (Fr) Logan Hautamaki, (Fr) Jonny Lynch, (Fr) Austin Caraballo, and (Fr) Justin Kinsley.
Coach Hautamaki comments, "We're looking forward to big things this season. Our biggest strength is that we have a lot of scorers. We spent the whole summer finding the boys opportunities to play in AAU, summer leagues, attending camps, and participating in shot clubs where our boys were making 10,000+ shots. We want to prepare them to play fast and free, we can only do that by giving them the tools and resources to be skilled players. Warrior Week was great, everyone made over 1,000 game speed shots, and we put in our team offense, team defense, inbounds plays, and press break, to name a few."
Warrior Week included the Winter Warriors Boys Basketball program setting their own team goals, selecting their own team captains, and identifying what they want out of the season. Coach Hautamaki states, "This is their team, and we want them to set the sail and captain their own ship, we're just guides in their journey." Hautamaki refers to his coaching style which includes allowing the team to establish ownership of their season and work towards their goals. "It creates a sense of ownership, and allows them to determine the thermostat for their work ethic" cites Hautamaki. The goals, if achieved, will make for a historic season, and include goals never before witnessed in the Winter School District.
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