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Westside boys basketball ready to tip-off season
November 28, 2022
The Westside varsity boys basketball team has high expectations for this season, after finishing with a 24-3 record and a number 3 overall ranking from the Omaha World-Herald. The Warriors tied the school record for the most wins in a season with 24 and won the Metro Holiday Tournament. Tryouts for the varsity, junior varsity, and freshman teams started on Monday, Nov. 14 with 80 players. Westside has a good amount of talented players, so tryouts were not easy for the coaches.
“Well it’s obviously a difficult process,” head coach Jim Simons said, “We’re fortunate enough to have a lot of talented players at Westside, that’s a good problem for coaches to have. It’s also tough because you’re having to make decisions that are very difficult, and you’re dealing with a lot of talented players and the effort that a lot of the guys gave. We’re excited to get going with our group. We’ve narrowed it down to a JV and Varsity group. We’re still waiting for a couple of guys to come after the Monday night football game. We’re excited to get going on the process and see how things are gonna get going in the next few weeks.”
Westside lost six seniors from last season, but the Warriors return their top scorer in Tate Odvody, who averaged 15 points a game. Coach Simons is impressed with Odvody, after earning second team All-State honors by the Omaha World-Herald.
“Tate’s committed to Colorado Christian, which is a Division II school,” Simons said. “Tate returned for his third year with us, he’s a four year varsity player, three years with us. We anticipate he’ll have a really good year. He established himself as a top player statewide in the 2023 class. Tate’s got a tremendous work ethic and has put in a lot of work in the offseason. He’s in the best shape he’s been in his life, he’s improved his athleticism and his quickness. His skill levels have always been really good. So Tate’s in line to have a great senior season.”
Three juniors have emerged as possible starters from last year, Caleb Benning, CJ Mitchell and Kevin Stubblefield.
“Three juniors who played for us last year as sophomores are all going to have an expanded role this year,” Simons said. “Kevin Stubblefield, Caleb Benning and CJ Mitchell. CJ was our sixth man most of last year and started some games towards the end. CJ’s coming off a meniscus injury. He’s back to doing just about everything but he’s not quite cleared, so we hope to get him back in the near future. CJ will have a really good year. He’s really improved his body, he’s much stronger, he’s always been very quick, and his skill levels continue to improve. I think CJ is going to have a breakout year as one of the best guards in the Metro.”
Mitchell is expected to have a big junior season this year, after averaging seven points a game last season. Mitchell believes the team’s level of play will come from their work in the offseason.
“We’ve just been working hard in the weight room since august, just going hard in workouts.” Mitchell said, “Putting in work, getting the newer guys acclimated to playing varsity, getting them used to the game. Fast speed, teamwork, and chemistry.”
Last season Stubblefield led the Warriors in field goal percentage at 58%. The 6’4” forward also averaged five points and four rebounds a game.
“Kevin Stubblefield had an important role for us last year and he’ll see an expanded role for us this year, “ Simons said. “Kevin’s upside is maybe as high as anybody in the program. As he learns to be more consistent on a day in and day out basis. We’ve seen a real growth in Kevin and he’s another one that I think has a chance to emerge as one of the top players in the Metro.”
Benning is coming off a football injury to his collarbone, so he will join the basketball team after the state championship game. Last season Benning scored the game winning basket in the final seconds against Omaha Central.
“Caleb brings with him a ton of experience, he was a starter as a freshman,” Simons said. “He played a significant role through some tough injuries last year. I think Caleb is gonna have a great year, he’s getting healthier, he’s unbelievably tough and competitive. A tremendous defender when he’s healthy, and his offensive skills are gonna evolve this year.”
The Warriors also return two other seniors in Malik Crawford and Kevin Brown. Coach Simons believes both players bring valuable experience to the court.
“We’ve got Malik Crawford, who’s really improved and matured, Kevin Brown who’s taken some big steps, Ricky Lofton who transferred to us from Omaha South. He’ll become available towards the middle to end of January as he recovers from his knee injury. A couple other guys had a great offseason for us.”
Westside will open up their season on Thursday, Dec. 1, when the Warriors host Lincoln Southeast at 7:15 p.m.