Niwot Boys Basketball: A Preview for the 2021-2022 Season

Jeremy Gillett (he/him), Reporter

The 2020 season was atypical for the boys basketball team. Rather than starting in early December, the season began in January due to the pandemic. Fans were not allowed at games and masks had to be worn by all players – and, perhaps the biggest change of all, the season only had 14 games rather than the standard 23. All of these factors led to a tough season for the Niwot boy’s team. “I think it hurt us that we didn’t have fans at our game due to Covid-19. Covid-19 also kept us from practicing during the off-season, which negatively impacted our record,” said senior Stephen Sahaj. Last year’s team had a record of 1–13, “but,” remarked Coach Wittrock, “I feel our team was better than our record.” 

 

This year’s season is already looking more promising. A December start equals a return to normalcy, fans will be allowed at games, and there will be the usual 23 games in a season. Unlike last year, the prospective team is allowed to practice during the offseason, which massively improves the team dynamic. Last year, there were fewer athletes who tried out which led to there being only three teams. However, this year is looking much more normal, and there will likely be enough players for the typical four teams (Varsity, JV, C, and D).  “I think we have a bright future. Our numbers have gone up and there’s more people in the gym,” stated Senior Dev Mudukutore.  

 

In anticipation for the start of the season, Coach Wittrock and the team answered some questions about last year’s season and the outlook for this year. 

 

Q: How was last year’s season different from normal? How did that affect the team? 

A: Coach Whittrock – “The mental toll of last year was unlike anything I’ve experienced as a coach or player.  It was a really tough year, and the team worked hard through all the adversity.  I am so proud of how we handled each hurdle thrown at us, and never stopped competing.  I feel if we had been allowed a full 23 game season, we would have earned more wins. However, beyond wins and losses, last year made us all reflect on our priorities.  We cherished the opportunity to play, to learn lessons, and to create memories.” 

 

Q: How did you feel about last year’s season? What’s your outlook on this season?

A: (Junior) Mateusz Swat – “I think it could’ve gone better, we showed glimpses of success but we couldn’t string them together for a whole game. Towards the end of the season, we started stringing them together more, but it was a bit late by that point. We are optimistic about this season and our hopes are high. We are hoping to make playoffs this year.”

 

Q: How does it feel to be a senior, one of the leaders of the team this year? What are your goals for yourself and for the team? 

A: (Senior) Dev Mudukutore – “It’s a great feeling to be  able to lead the team. I’ve played with all the players around me in my class and we have a lot of talent. We’ve worked hard over the summer and we’re a really tight group. A personal goal for me is to lead this team through the adversity of wins and losses. A common team goal is to make the playoffs and to make a statement of how much we’ve improved from last year.”

 

Q: How is the future of the program looking? Are there promising players in the upcoming future? 

A: Coach Whittrock – “I’m excited about the present and future of the program.  We are building towards the identity and culture that will make us successful each season.  I’ll have a better idea of future potential after tryouts and teams are determined, but through the fall I have already seen some really promising things from this freshmen class.”

 

Q: What would you tell somebody who’s unsure about coming out for basketball? 

A: (Junior) Mateusz Swat – “Give it a try because it will teach you a lot of lessons in life that can be translated off the court. You’ll learn how to be accountable and work with others along with creating a brotherhood with your teammates and persevere through problems. You never know if you’ll like it if you don’t try it, so might as well give it a shot and maybe it will lead to success.” 

 

All in all, this year is looking more promising for the team than in the past. A more normal season along with additional  players will hopefully lead to a successful season. Basketball tryouts happened in mid November, and the season officially began on December 2nd, when the boys faced Denver West at Niwot. 

 

(Last year’s team, Dev Mudukutore pictured at the front of the line) (Jocelyn Rowley, Left Hand Courier)

(Stephen Sahaj shoots over Silver Creek) (Timothy Hurst, BoCo Preps)

(Coach Wittrock cheering on the team) (Timothy Hurst, BoCo Preps)

(Walt van Riper goes up for a block) (Jocelyn Rowley, Left Hand Courier)