ALBANY -- Sherwood Christian Academy's boys basketball team insists this season's motto is not, "Final Four or Bust."
Still, "that's definitely a goal," second-year Eagles coach Matt Ruta said. "We're going to take it one game at a time and try to win each one and make these guys into great men. That's the goal."
For a team, however, that returns four starters from last season when it reached the GISA Class AA quarterfinals, Ruta has to like his team's chances.
"We lost a heartbreaker (46-44 against eventual state champ Arlington Christian) in the Final Eight and we feel we have a pretty good team coming back," Ruta said. "We've just got to work hard and get better every day."
A lot of that success could have to do with sophomore DeQuan Green, son of former Westover High School star/NBA player Dontonio Wingfield. At 6-foot-2 with plenty of athleticism, Green is arguably Eagles' spark plug.
"He's improved a lot since last year," Ruta said. "We like his work ethic. He's got to be more of a leader for us."
Green, although he is a sophomore, realizes that a great deal of leadership could be placed on his shoulders as the season goes on.
"With me coming back and everybody looking up to me and I'm a sophomore, it's a big responsibility," Green said. "I just want to be selfless on the court and get everybody involved."
A big reason for Sherwood's success last season was the post play of Cameron Williams. Although Ruta said the post won't be as big a factor this year as it was last, guard Wesley Pittman's 3-point shooting could give opponents something else to be concerned about besides Green.
During the 2008-09 season, Pittman made 88 3-pointers.
"I don't think we have to ride on just one guy," Ruta said. "(But) Wesley is definitely a threat from the outside."
Pittman, along with Green and Brannan Anthony, could possibly be part of a guard presence that Ruta thinks will be the strength for this year's Eagles.
On-court chemistry, however, is another thing Ruta stresses as his team gets ready for today's 8 p.m. home opener against Crisp Academy.
And while the Eagles' motto is "Trust," taken from a Bible verse (Jeremiah 17:7), some players can't help but also think of "Final Four or Bust."
"There are a lot of
expectations for us because of the run we made last year," Pittman said. "I think we've got a target on our backs this year, and we've just got to play hard and come to win every game."
Considering that the boys program had struggled before last season, another challenge the Eagles face is handling their newfound success. Anthony, however, doesn't see that as an issue.
"I think that's a good thing," he said. "That can motivate us."