by Mike Slodki
MAPLE PARKâ€”West Auroraâ€™s loss is Kaneandâ€™s gain.
Brian Johnson, an assistant to Gordie Kerkbaum at West Aurora High School a year ago, makes his coaching debut next week in Sycamore.
With a first-year coaching gig on the way, and the challenge of trying to improve a team that went 13-13 (5-9 Western Sun Conferernce) on the way, the task can seem overwhelming.
â€œI still have a lot to learn,â€ Johnson said. â€œIâ€™m learning how to handle the kids energy.â€
But the former Judson College player has a built-in ace up his sleeve.
â€œIt starts with Dave, whoâ€™s a very good player,â€ Johnson said.
College of the Holy Cross-signee Dudzinski returns for his senior campaign, having averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds per game last year. The senior was also nominated for a McDonaldâ€™s All-American honor this week.
Johnson also likes what he has with other players going into the 2009-10 season.
â€œWe have guys that are toughâ€”that are looking to get to the next level,â€ Johnson said.
Returnees include senior guard Ryley Bailey, forward Steve Colombe, who has a flair for the perimeter game, forward Sean Paulick, guard Donovan Williams, forward Chaon Denlinger and forward Pat Fleming.
â€œRyley has had a real nice couple of weeks. Heâ€™ll be a really strong player for us. Denlinger has gotten a lot better defensively,â€ Johnson said.
New to the varsity ranks are forward Danilo Bruno, guard Zach Ringhouse, guard Andrew Oâ€™Herron, forward Matt Spitzzeri, guard Matt Cowans, forward Taylor Andrews and forward Tyler Callaghan.
â€œThe guys will get used to playing with each other and learning their role and weâ€™re still trying to see where guys will fit in for us, but guys like Taylor, Tyler and Sean are unsung guys who will do the little things,â€ Johnson said.
The Knights hit the Strombom tournament in Sycamore for Thanksgiving week, beginning with Aurora Christian on Tuesday, Nov. 24.