First-year Shorewood boys basketball coach Chris Hill is hoping in future seasons to look back on this injury-riddled 6-18 campaign and say, "This is where our success began."
Because the youthful, thin and small Greyhounds absorbed many lessons this winter.
"I think the main thing we took out of this is that realized how much hard work it will take to change the program," he said. "Some kids think that it's easy, that they can walk in here and create a success overnight, but it's just not that way. It starts in the summer with individual skill work, then working hard with the team.
"Some thought the first day of the WIAA season is when they should get started, but now I believe these kids understand how hard it is."
The road was challenging for Hill and the Greyhounds right from the start. They won their first game over Milwaukee Pulaski but then dropped 15 of their next 16, frequently by large margins.
Major issues included a lack of height (no starter above 6-2), experience and a debilitating injury to senior guard Mikael Green, who was a 24-point-a-game All-Woodland East performer a year ago. Green was limited to just 10 games and 184 total points, but he did manage to cross the 1,000-point barrier (1,077) for his career.
With him gone, junior guard DeAndre Anderson had to take charge, and he did so in impressive fashion, scoring at a 19.9-points-a-game clip, shooting 52 percent, draining 39 3-pointers and hitting 82 percent of his free throws (118-144). He led the Greyhounds in game played with 23 out of 24 contests. He earned first-team All-Woodland East Division honors for his efforts.
He got help from senior forward James Ewing (7.8 ppg.) and sophomore guard Aaron Eimers (8.6 ppg.).
"DeAndre meant everything to us," said Hill. "Our team succeeded in certain games because he succeeded. He was not simply a scorer. He was someone that other teams had to actively gameplan against. He was our everything."
Others who stepped up and helped include freshman guard Chris Farrington and junior forward Julian Rodriguez Richards (4.7 ppg.).
When the lineup got thin, Farrington stepped up and filled gaps, Hill said.
"We had to throw him to the wolves," Hill said, "but he will be better for it in the future."
With everything working against them, the Greyhounds continued playing, winning three out of four games in a week's span from Feb. 13-20.
Anderson wound up earning first-team All-Woodland East Division honors. Seniors included Ewing, Arman Khan, Dayton Simentz and Green.
For all what the team went through, Hill was pleased with the progress.
"We won six games, without our best player, which is the same as what we did last year, it does speak volumes about these kids," Hill said. "We still had some skill out there."
Shorewood's junior varsity had a competitive year while the freshmen struggled a little bit.
"What we will continue to do is try to get better," said Hill. "We'll follow the old adage, 'What you put into it is what you'll get out of it.' We just have to teach these kids how to succeed. Learn how to win. I was very proud of our seniors. They gave it everything they had."