McKenna looks to lead Homestead boys basketball team to promised land
Highlanders deep, experienced this season
New Homestead boys basketball coach Kevin McKenna finally has all his puzzle pieces in place.
Now he'll see if he can make a masterpiece out of it all this winter as an experienced Highlanders' squad looks to build on a 18-5 league runner-up record of a year ago and possibly usurp three-time North Shore Conference champion and defending D1 state titlist Germantown.
They will get an early test of their aspirations as after visiting Madison West on Friday and Madison LaFollette on Saturday, they will open North Shore play on Tuesday, Nov. 27 at Germantown.
"The schedule will let us know how good we are right away," said McKenna, who came over after four seasons with the Highlanders' North Shore rival Grafton, "and it'll be a good test for both teams (Germantown and Homestead). It'll be their first game, so it'll be a bit of an advantage having had gotten some games in already."
Germantown, despite steep graduation losses, has been named a pre-season number one in the state by the Wisconsin Basketball Yearbook.
McKenna also knows that game will be emotional for other reasons as junior guards LaMonte and Brian Bearden, who spent their first two years over at Homestead (LaMonte being a two-year starter), will be in the line-up for the Warhawks having transferred over to Germantown last spring.
Expectations are high for McKenna and Homestead as the two-year run of Marquis Hines ends and his era begins.
He just got back to practice 6-8 all-everything senior center Luke Worthington (12 ppg.) and 6-3 senior shooting guard Jake Laihinen (9.9 ppg.) from their major roles in the Highlander football team's WIAA D2 championship run that was just completed Nov. 16.
Worthington was an offensive tackle and Laihinen the starting quarterback. Worthington has already committed to BYU on a NCAA Division I basketball scholarship offer.
"Those are two guys who bring great energy and really want the team to succeed," said McKenna.
But prior to getting those two back to practice McKenna still had plenty to work with as there are plenty of other returning hands for the Highlanders. They include other starters like 6-0 sophomore point Joseph Binyoti, 6-2 senior guard James Reilly (10 ppg.) and 6-3 forward Sam Kaegi (6.6 ppg.).
McKenna said that Binyoti has taken great steps upward from his promising freshman season but still needs to work on his defense.
Other returnees of note include 5-10 senior guard Darius Marshall (6.4 ppg.), and 6-7 sophomore forward Jaylen Key (5.5 ppg.).
McKenna said that Key has improved dramatically and brings an "unbelievably positive attitude" to the team.
Newcomers to the team include 5-9 senior guard Rob Fulton and 6-3 senior forward Randy Tatum and juniors 6-0 Seth Cooley, 6-5 Jerrod Walton, 6-4 Nile Bolden, and 6-5 Luke Mueller.
McKenna said the transition has gone very well so far.
"It's been pretty smooth," he said. "Ryan Mangan (Homestead Athletic Director) has helped me a lot and the kids have been awesome. They get to work, they want to work. It's a coaches' dream, and as noted, we have very high expectations."
And many different ways of reaching them.
"We're going to be able to go pretty deep," said McKenna. "We can big and long and also small and fast. We can do a ton of things with this group. We want to be able to put pressure on opposing defenses, get it inside, then push it out."
"It'll be interesting to see how far we can go."
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