'Hounds start season under new coach

It’s another quick transition for Wilmington.

Once again, the success of the Greyhounds’ football team left basically no break for a transition from spikes to sneakers for more than half of the basketball team’s members. Wilmington played for the PIAA Class 2A football championship on a Saturday — a day after winter sports practices opened — and then went right into the gym to prepare for basketball.

“Every year we go through this,” Wilmington coach Robb Shimrack said. “You can actually see it — sometime in late January, the football players get their legs back. They change from football players to basketball players.”

The Greyhounds have a different look this year as Shimrack took over for Mike Jeckavitch, who moved to Wilmington’s girls program after 10 years leading the boys. Shimrack spent the past three seasons as the boys’ junior varsity coach under Jeckavitch. His son, Braxton, is a senior on the squad, so dad has been coaching this group of athletes for a decade or so.

“Primarily due to my son being their same age, I’ve been around these guys since they were in Little League baseball and everything like that,” Robb Shimrack said. “‘Jeck’ has been great with the whole transition. Basketball is the easy part, but it’s everything else I am having to get used to.”

Pandemic restrictions altered the team’s offseason, too, which was not the ideal situation for a new head coach. However, with the team’s familiarity, Robb Shimrack hopes the players can adjust quickly.

“Everything has been going well so far, but they are beat up from football. I am being patient with them,” he said. “I haven’t had a whole lot of time with them. We were limited in the summer. But, I am excited. I know I am coming into it with a good senior group. The fact that I do coach football also has helped, in a way, with the transition. We’re all kind of coming in together. So far, so good.

“We’re doing similar things to what we’ve done in the past, but it is a new system, so that’s taken some time.”

Wilmington can rely on its versatile and experienced senior class, including returning lettermen Caelan Bender, Ethan Susen, Braxton Shimrack, Mason Reed and Weston Phanco. Braxton Shimrack and Bender started games last season.

“I could see us going 10 deep, with some limitations. I know what most of them can do,” Robb Shimrack said. “Our biggest strength, primarily, is athleticism. These guys are athletes. I wouldn’t call them basketball players, per se. They are very athletic and bring different things to the table.”

The ’Hounds finished 10-14 overall last season after 50-43 loss to Cambridge Springs in the District 10 Class 2A quarterfinals. They want to focus on the defensive end this season.

“Primarily, we’ll be a defensive-oriented team,” Robb Shimrack said. “I’ve come up with these seniors all the way through the different levels. Their identity and my identity have been created over time. This senior group will be a tough group to say goodbye to, to be honest.”

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