Westminster at Oak Mountain looking for growth from young team

Published 9:50 am Thursday, October 26, 2023

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By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor 

NORTH SHELBY – A young team a year ago, the Westminster at Oak Mountain Knights are still young heading into the 2023-2024 season, but bring back an experienced group of players ready to help the program take the next step.

With six freshmen playing a season ago, this year’s team won’t feature a large group of upperclassmen, but it will feature an experienced group that has grown together on and off of the court.

“It was a challenge last year, starting so many ninth graders against 12th graders was a challenge, so you have a year of experience under their belt, knowing that they have two more years after this,” Westminster head coach Russ Gurley said. “It’s an exciting time and they’ve progressed so much in a year. The first 10 days of practice, there has been a lot of energy and effort. I’m excited.”

Coming off a difficult season as that young team gained experience, Gurley said this year’s team is already showing signs of rebounding this year because of the attitude they have toward each other on and off the floor.

“The team, already, you can see that they get along, work together and like each other,” he said. “We have 10 on the team and it would be difficult for me to pick the top contributors from the 10 because it’s a real balanced group of players. Some guys are shooters and some are tremendous effort guys.”

Gurley said Rocco Zaccagni and Porter Lunsford are two of those effort guys he is excited about because of the intensity they bring to the table.

“Our communication, in and out of practice, attests to how close we have becom,” Zaccagni said. “At the beginning of the year, we had some difficulty just knowing where each other was on the court because we are such a wide variety of players but we’ve gotten to the point where we can make passes without even looking at each other.”

Gurley said they have also led by example when it comes to one of the team’s biggest goals, which is to become a more physical team.

“As a group, we need to be more physical than we were last year, we need to be stronger and being a year older makes us that way,” he said.

Zaccagni said he has been pushing the team and himself since the summer to help make sure they get bigger and stronger.

“Started out with some conditioning practices this summer,” he said. “Those were once or twice a week, so outside of that, I was trying to hold myself and others accountable to doing work outside of practice to get stronger.”

That goes with the team’s standard this season of being great, not just good. Gurley said the team wants to demonstrate excellence in everything they do.

“We both try to be great examples of that for the team and lead them in fulfilling that role,” Lunsford said.

Other players to keep an eye on this year will be David Sellers at a guard position and Currin Carter as a taller player who can score and rebound.

The goal is for the team to play fast and physical with the added year of experience, and Gurley said in the first 10 days of practice, all of them have been “busting it” from beginning to end.

The Knights will open the season on Nov. 3 against Jefferson Christian at 7 p.m. in a home game, which will take place at Kingwood Church in Alabaster this season.