DOWNERS GROVE – Kris Olson's familiarity with the Downers Grove South boys basketball team should ease his transition to varsity head coach.
The former Mustangs' JV coach climbed the ladder to varsity this past offseason, filling a void left by the recently departed Jay Baum. In his first year as head coach, Olson will try to build upon last season's 15-12 record and the Mustangs' trip to the regional championship game.
"The transition to varsity has been a relatively smooth one," Olson said. "I know all these boys and I have coached most of them at one point. This is a new season – a new experience – and we are looking to improve as a team and get better with every game.
"We have a roster that is loaded with seniors and some talented newcomers. The upperclassmen have really asserted themselves in the preseason and I expect that to carry through to the end of the regular season."
Senior returning guards Paul Engo III and Danny Spinuzza will run the Mustangs' motion offense. A three-year varsity player, Engo III is a quick, elusive ball handler who displays a consistent knack for driving to the hoop and finding the open man.
Spinuzza – the Mustangs' starting shooting guard – has made tremendous strides from last season and is a threat to knock down mid- to long-range shots at any time.
So far, Olson says that he has been impressed with his backcourt tandem and their ability to handle the offensive and defensive sets.
"We ask a lot from our guards," Olson said. "I count on them to maintain uptempo play – pushing the ball on offense and pressuring the opposition on defense when we run a full court press."
Down low, the Mustangs will rely on of 6-foot-5-inch freshman TJ Clifford to control the paint. Clifford made significant strides in adjusting to varsity ball during summer workouts and games, and is versatile enough to play with his back to the basket or step out and hit shots. Senior forward Matt Zinnecker saw significant playing time last year and offers another option close to the basket.
A trip to St. Charles East's Ron Johnson Thanksgiving tournament will test the Mustangs right off the bat, and competing at the Proviso West Holiday Tournament will also provide a challenge and will help prepare South to contend in the West Suburban Gold.
Downers Grove South Mustangs
Head coach: Kris Olson
2012-13 record: 15-12
Next game: 5 p.m. Wednesday vs. Plainfield East at St. Charles East Invite
Paul Engo III sr. G
Kovas Rugienius sr. C
Danny Spinuzza sr. G
Matt Zinnecker sr. F
TJ Clifford fr. F