Wanless won’t enforce his usual coaching philosophy on all-stars
JUST THE FACTS
-- What: Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association all-star games for graduated high school seniors.
-- Where: UW Field House, Madison.
-- When: Friday—Girls: Division 1, 9 a.m.; Division 2, 10:45; Division 3, 12:30 p.m.; Division 4, 2:15; Division 5, 4:00.
Saturday—Boys: Division 1, 9 a.m.; Division 2, 10:45; Division 3, 12:30 p.m.; Division 4, 2:15; Division 5, 4:00.
-- Tickets: $10 for both days. Proceeds go to the MAAC Fund (Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer).
EDGERTON The 33rd annual Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association boys all-star games are set for Saturday at the UW Fieldhouse in Madison.
Like most all-star contests, the five games between the state’s top high school graduated seniors will feature plenty of shooting, scoring and as little defense as possible.
Mark Wanless, the coach of the Division 3 South All-Stars, spent 18 productive seasons at Edgerton High School utilizing a proficient half-court offense and a suffocating man-to-man defense. Neither one will be on display when Wanless’ South team plays the North at 12:30 p.m.
“You’re not going to change these kids in a week, and I don’t want to,” Wanless said. “You take the reins off and let them go. We will play like the kids are used to playing, and they’ve done a nice job of adapting to the few things we have tried to put in.
“We would have to score 180 points Saturday for every kid on this team to hit their average from high school. That’s not going to happen, so everybody has to check their ego at the door. And everyone has.”
Wanless has a good mix of players on his roster, including Brodhead graduate and UW-Milwaukee recruit J.J. Panoske, along with Evansville graduate and Ashford (Iowa) University recruit Dylan Erickson.
The 6-foot-10 Panoske averaged 22.8 points per game last season in earning the Rock Valley South Conference Player of the Year honor. Wanless has been impressed with Panoske’s ability to play multiple positions.
“The best thing about J.J. is that he’s looking to get better,” said Wanless, who retired after this past season. “As a coach, that’s what you’re looking for at any level.
“He has played enough ball to know what it’s going to take to be successful at the next level. And I think his skills will allow him to do that.”
Erickson averaged 14.1 points per game for the Blue Devils. He will attend Ashford, located in Clinton, Iowa, on an academic/athletic scholarship.
Playing alongside the state’s best was a lifelong dream for Erickson, but as a 5-foot-6, 125-pound freshman, he never thought he’d get the chance.
“I worked really hard at it, and fortunately, I grew,” said Erickson, who is now 6-3 and 210 pounds. “I can’t think of a better way to end my high school career.”
Erickson said all of his teammates have been impressive, but none more than Whitefish Bay Dominican’s Iman Johnson.
“Iman is an athletic freak,” Erickson said. “He does things on the court that you don’t see from many high school players.
“We’re going to put on a good show Saturday. I can’t wait.”
A good show that is certain to feature plenty of offense and little defense.
For his swan song, that’s just how Mark Wanless wants it.
MACC Fund to benefit childhood cancer
Along with the 10 boys and girls WBCA all-star games on Friday and Saturday, the players and coaches will visit the UW Hospital Childhood Cancer Center in Madison. Players are required to raise $500 through pledges with all proceeds going to the MACC Fund.
Elkhorn High boys coach Jon Handel, the coach of the Division 2 boys, said players have far exceeded the required amount.
“I think my team has raised about $29,000,” Handel said. “That’s just incredible when you think about it.”
Wanless has been touched by not only the players’ commitment to the childhood cancer cause, but by the community’s hospitality.
“In this day and age, where most of these kids already have their college picked out or their scholarship, to come in here for a week and raise three or four thousand dollars is pretty special,” Wanless said.
“And our community has opened their arms to these kids. We don’t cook one meal. We’ve got restaurants in this town that feed these kids and help out. That’s what it’s all about.”