Joseph Charter School basketball coach, Olan Fulfer, is a stickler for conditioning. Nearly every player on his 19-man squad sports a healthy sheen of sweat 10 minutes into practice.
The squad has a more-than-full roster this year: 19 players have signed up including a half-dozen freshmen.
“We’ll have even more, next year,” Fulfer said, matter-of-factly. “We have a lot of eighth-graders coming up, and we’re only losing three seniors.”
A few practices into the season, Fulfer and assistant and junior varsity coach, Jacob Layton, already like what they see.
“Great attitudes and they’re all working hard and that’s what we’re looking for,” Fulfer said.
Stars have yet to shine this early in practice. Fulfer said that the squad is concentrating on fundamentals, mental drills and conditioning. The team practices five times a week, two hours at a stretch. Much of the squad spent the off-season in Olympic-style weight-lifting classes to keep up their strength.
During dribbling practice, it’s easy to see who kept up their chops and who will put in extra practice if they expect playing time on the floor. During playing drills, the vast majority of the Eagles put in 100 percent effort with little lacking in the way of intensity. If they keep up this pace, the team will go places.
As much as Fulfer is a stickler for conditioning and fundamentals, skullwork also ranks high on the list. His teams spend time in the classroom going over game films and discussing ways to improve the squad performance.
Two of the squad’s six freshmen have the possibility of starting at the moment. The coach won’t name names, but he is pleased with their performance thus far.
“They’ve put in the work, but they’ll have to earn it through (coach) Layton,” Fulfer said. “I told them they’ll have to bust their tail on his end, and in games, they’ll have to go hard, because I have 11 returning varsity players.” He added that several sophomores also look promising and are not out of the running for starting positions.
Joseph is in a tough league, with competition including always deadly North Powder and state champions, Nixyaawii. Elgin and Imbler also received mention as teams tough to beat.
Returning starters such as Mason Fere’ and Chase Murray return and stalwarts like Carson Littlepage, Hadley Miller and Juston Rogers are also on the squad. Littlepage is currently sidelined with a football injury but Fulfer expects a speedy and full recovery.
“I think you’re going to see a ton of improvement from every single player from last year,” Fulfer said. “Most of the players from the varsity rotation have put in the work to play, and I’ve been impressed with that.”
Senior losses included Tyler Homan, Trey Wandschneider, Kade Kilgore and TJ Grote.
Coach Fulfer said that fans coming out to see the Eagles can expect to see hard-working players with great attitudes and composure. He expects them to be the top sportsmanship team in the state as well as contenders for the title.
“I think we’re going to be fun to watch,” Fulfer said. “We’re going to be an enjoyable team. We’re going to work hard.”