With the high school basketball season well underway, the Daniel Boone Blazers are giving it all they have. Even though the year has been a rocky one for the squad (0-6 in the Berks League and 1-16 overall), every positive step matters, however big or small.
One of the bright spots for the squad is sophomore Ryan Okuniewski. He’s currently leading the team in scoring with 9.9 points per game, with 25 successful three-point attempts. Even though he may be excelling in these areas, he said that anything he can do for the team to help them be successful is key.
“There’s always room for improvement for our team, but we’re a young group,’ said Okuniewski. “Right now, we’re trying to prepare for the future. It’s not all about wins and losses at this point. It’s about improving each game. There have been some games where we’ve taken a step forward, and others where we’ve taken a step back. We’re hopeful we’re on the path to succeeding in the near future.’
Okuniewski said that one of the major goals for the team this season was to improve with every game, and never take a step back.
“Right now, we’re on a steep mountain, and we’ve got a long way to climb to start being successful again,’ said Okuniewski. “We’re a young team, and we have it in mind to never take a negative step, to keep moving forward, and eventually positive things will happen.’
For him, as far as personal goals are concerned, the sophomore commented, “I just want to contribute to the team as much as I can. If I score two points but have ten assists and a few rebounds, I would be happier than scoring 15 points and not contributing anywhere else. I’m doing my best to be a good teammate, and I feel like I’m on the right road to building a stronger bond with my team.’
Okuniewski is currently leading Boone with 9.9 points per game. While that may be something many players in higher levels of play may think is important, Okuniewski would rather win.
“I would trade all the games that I’ve scored well in and lost by a decent amount for a win, even if I didn’t score at all,’ he said. “I’m more of a team player, so it does mean something to me, yes, but I would rather see my team succeed first.’
With 25 successful three-point attempts, Okuniewski said that it’s one of the shots that he has in his arsenal, but admitted he’s inconsistent with it at times.
“I got into a habit that that was the only shot I used,’ said Okuniewski. “I’m trying to build around it. I’m not trying to take as many of them, and not trying to force them when I don’t have to. Overall though, it’s another weapon that I can take out from time to time, and I like where that shots at right now.’
If the three is open, Okuniewski says he’ll take the shot, but also noted he’s working diligently on shot selection, when to take the shot in possessions, and making sure he doesn’t shoot too quick so that the team ends up playing defense more often than playing offense.
“I’m trying to work on making that shot when it’s absolutely necessary, and having other scoring options at my disposal when I need them.’
The sophomore said that taking the three point shot takes as much practice as any other shot does.
“Coach G (Boone boys’ head coach Ian Gendreau) always says the way you shoot a ball in practice is the way you’re going to do it in games,’ said Okuniewski. “Every time I do it in practice, I’m trying to get that routine down where every shot is the same.’
Okuniewski said that he does have a sweet spot for the three when he does take it.
“A lot of guys like to take the shot straight on to the basket, but I like to take it from the elbows, outside on the wing, because that’s where I’m usually playing. I’ve got into the habit of taking the shot from there.’
Eventually though, Okuniewski said teams will game plan for that, and he will adjust where he shoots the ball from when need be.
In order to have success for the rest of the season, the sophomore said, “We have to play together more. At the beginning, a lot of us were focused on points. What Coach Gendreau tried to get across to us is, no one is going to really recognize one player scoring in double digits on a team that’s not good. He pointed out to us that we should be more focused on how we can make each other better as a unit.
“Right now, everyone will look at our record and say that it wasn’t a successful year. We, however, need to make sure that in our minds, we ended on a good run, and if we do that, it will be successful to us.’
Okuniewski added that for him to have a good personal year this season, he has to be a good teammate.
“In the course of play, if someone is open, I want to make sure to get them the ball,’ he said. “I want to help my teammates out as much as I can, however I can. I want the team to be successful overall, no matter what I do individually.’