Posted December 24, 2009 | comments Leave a comment

Under Mathews, Wildcats a work in progress

By Brian Eller - beller@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL - In just his first season as head coach, Vernon Mathews is still getting adjusted to leading the Wildcats boys basketball team.

But with experience on the Warren County football and baseball coaching staffs, Mathews doesn't have to worry about building relationships with his players. He's already got those.

"This is my first year, so we've put in a lot of new stuff," Mathews said. "It's a learning process. We're trying to put everything together. I coach baseball and football, so what I have with these kids is a relationship in different sports. We didn't go into this [season] not knowing what our capabilities are. We feel we have the best system laid out. We just have to implement it."

Through five games, it's clear the Wildcats are still suffering through the growing pains of a new coach and system. Warren County is 2-4 on the year, with its wins coming against Strasburg and Luray. Mathews said the new system isn't "a lot of new stuff," and is "pretty simple," but it's taking time to get into a comfort zone with the players.

In addition to implementing a new system, Mathews has focused his coaching on other aspects, particularly the strength and conditioning of his players. With a roster that boasts 10 seniors, a handful of whom play other sports during the year, Mathews knows he has a talented group of guys and makes sure they stay in top shape.

"Coach, he's something with us," senior Marty Haley said. "He really makes sure we run and stay in shape. We're lifting weights, we're shooting, we're just doing the stuff that he's done at the next level, so it's just all next level stuff. We're not doing high school stuff, we're doing college-level stuff."

Though only in his first year at the helm for the Wildcats, Mathews has experience playing basketball in high school and coaching at the lower levels. He said compared to other sports, basketball requires quick adjustments, and said in the team's lone victory this season he was able to make the necessary adjustments and get shooters open for points.

Aside from the Wildcats' record, Mathews has seen his team progress since the start of the season. In a recent game against Luray, Mathews said he noticed his team start to execute the offense better, and hopes to see more of the same progression this weekend in the Daily Classic boys basketball tournament. The Wildcats open against Broadway on Saturday.

"At times we've played well," Mathews said. "Going into the tournament, I did some research online and Broadway looks like they're going to be pretty good this year. We'll see. The last couple of days we started working on a couple of things and trying to get things in motion."

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