The Wellington High School boys varsity basketball team has one primary goal this season — a March trip to the state finals in Lakeland.
That’s not an unrealistic goal for a program that has reached the state final four in Lakeland four times over the past six seasons. The highlight of the last six years was, of course, the state championship won by the 2014-15 Wolverine squad.
Will this year’s Wolverine cagers earn a trip to Lakeland and finish the season as Class 7A state champs? That remains to be seen. Wellington head coach Matt Colin is cautiously optimistic about his team’s chances this year of making a deep postseason run.
“I like our current team. It’s a good group of players,” said Colin, who is entering his 14th season as the head basketball coach at Wellington High School. “We have an interesting blend of returning players and those who were on the JV team last year who are now trying to figure things out.”
Colin is committed to lofty goals for his team for the 2020-21 season. He wouldn’t have it any other way.
“For many of our younger players, it’s baptism by fire,” Colin said. “Because of COVID-19, we didn’t have the chance to practice this summer in order to build chemistry and tinker with how we play the game.”
Clearly, Wellington appears to be gelling quickly, as it won its first three games in convincing fashion. This included a 74-55 win against Lake Worth High School on Dec. 9, an 80-53 victory over Atlantic High School on Dec. 11 and a 76-59 triumph over Suncoast High School on Dec. 15.
This year’s roster features 13 players who have a big role to play in both practice and in games.
Senior Isiah Perez is a “jack of all trades and a high-energy player,” Colin said.
Junior Brenden Williams, the younger brother of former Wellington basketball standout B.B. Williams, is like “lightening in a bottle,” Colin explained. Williams is a new member of Wellington’s starting five.
Senior Elijah Andrews is long and lean — 6-foot-2 and just 155 pounds. Andrews is “a very smart, heady player who is starting to blossom,” Colin noted.
Junior Zayin Humber is one of the taller players on the team at 6-foot-4. According to Colin, Humber spent the off season improving his fitness and skill level.
“Zayin is now more agile and has a good set of hands,” Colin said. “He’s now a great dribbler, especially for a power forward.”
Senior Jordan Johnson is one of the top players for the Wolverines.
“Jordan is a phenomenal player,” Colin said. “He has amazing raw strength and is very good about getting to the rim to score.”
Senior point guard Will Van Hook is a very intelligent and crafty player. “Will is a very heady point guard,” Colin said. “He makes all the right plays.”
Senior Christopher Walker is one of the Wolverines’ key players in every game. Whether Walker is playing as either a guard or a forward, his job is to score points. Colin expects double digits in every game from Walker.
“Christopher is a three-year starter, is very coachable, and his size (6-foot-6) allows him to be a dominant player on the court,” Colin explained.
Walker has a basketball playing future after his high school career comes to an end. He will be playing next year at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
Junior Brandon Walters is one of the players who has made the transition from the junior varsity to the varsity squad.
“Brandon is now learning the speed of varsity basketball,” Colin said. “He has lots of energy.”
Junior forward Daryl Brown has a specific role on the team. “Daryl is one of our high-energy post players who loves to rebound,” Colin said.
This season, senior Trey Perry is healthy and happy to be a part of the team.
“Trey was on the team as a freshman and a sophomore, but he was injured all of last year as a junior,” Colin explained. “He’s one of my smartest players who brings lots of experience to the team.”
Junior Terell Edwards uses his height (6-foot-5) to his advantage.
“Terell is our starting center who brings great effort to every game,” Colin said. “His motor doesn’t stop working. He is very long, which allows him to grab a number of rebounds.”
According to Colin, senior Osvaldo Pelaez is one of his most physical players. “Osvaldo is a big guy who is strong, tough and smart,” he said.
Michael Bram — whose nickname is “Bear” — is a popular player with both his teammates and the fans in the stands. “Michael is a fan favorite,” Colin said. “He is the shortest player on the team, but he is a skilled guard who has a knack for scoring.”
During a normal year, the Wolverines play 25 regular-season games, but because of COVID-19 restrictions, the number of regular-season games has been capped at 15.
“With fewer games, we will get more practice time, which we need,” Colin said.
The Wolverines are usually busy playing games during the holidays, but it’s not business as usual this year. “We normally play in two Christmas tournaments, but not this year,” Colin noted.
With a 3-0 start, it’s so far so good for this year’s basketball-playing Wolverines. Only time will tell if the young squad makes it to the state finals in Lakeland.