- February 16, 2019
What began as whispers has evolved into full-blown chatter: The Central Florida basketball community is talking about Windermere High’s upstart boys hoops team.
With the regular-season concluded and the district tournament looming, the Wolverines (16-9) have won 10 of their last 13 games and are looking like a bonafide contender to make the regional playoffs in Class 8A — all of which has come as a bit of a pleasant surprise for veteran coach Mark Griseck.
“Coming in here, we didn’t really know what to expect,” Griseck said. “Dakota (Rivers) is the only player we had who had played varsity basketball. There were a lot of unknowns.”
Windermere has been playing its best basketball of the season in the past few weeks, but the senior-less Wolverines first showed that they might have something brewing when they knocked off Dr. Phillips Dec. 5, 70-65.
“That game was kind of surprising to me, and then a couple of games later, we beat Wekiva,” Griseck said. “We’ve gotten more consistent (since then), and we’ve had a nice little string of home games.”
Starting with a district victory over West Port Jan. 10, the Wolverines won eight consecutive games. During that time, Windermere not only got stellar play from its two strongest players — junior forward Dakota Rivers and freshman guard Trey Moss — but also it has continued to see timely playmaking from its supporting cast.
Players such as Josh Colon, Carter Zavada, Jeff Watson and Eric Canavan have continued to improve and take the coaching of Griseck and his staff.
“That’s been big because it’s got to be more than just (Rivers and Moss),” Griseck said. “Players have really accepted their roles and do what they do best.”
Speaking of the Wolverines’ coaching staff, that has also proven to be a strength for the brand-new program. Joining Griseck is his son, former Olympia standout Trey Griseck, as well as former Olympia head coach Matt Wheeler and Mike Stringer-Bratton, the program’s junior varsity coach.
The team of assistants collaborates to give the team some of the more detailed and thorough preparation routines in the region.
“I feel like I have the best staff in the state,” Griseck said. “I’ve got three guys with me who could be head coaches and who bring a uniqueness in what their (respective) passion is.”
Four of the wins during Windermere’s recent hot streak were district wins, helping the Wolverines to earn the No. 3 seed for the upcoming Class 8A, District 5 Tournament.
The two wins that may prove to be the most significant for the confidence of the young team, though, were Jan. 19 and Jan. 23 — against rivals Olympia and West Orange, respectively.
Both games drew large home crowds for the Wolverines, helping a young and inexperienced roster to get some more repetitions playing in front of a high volume of eyeballs.
“The inexperience shows at times, but I think we’ve settled in, and as the year has gone on, we’ve gotten better,” Griseck said.
It would be hard to argue that the debut season for the program isn’t already a success — regardless of what happens in the district tournament — but now that a playoff berth is just two wins away, it’s obviously on the minds of the young team.
However, Windermere’s veteran coach said he and his staff will maintain a business-as-usual feel leading up to the district quarterfinals Feb. 12.
“We focus on us; I don’t think you want to add any pressure,” Griseck said. “Anything can happen in a one-game deal. I’ve been on both ends of that where we upset teams and teams upset us. We’ll go out, we’ll do what we do and focus on us.”