BY J. PATRICK EAKEN | MIRROR SPORTS — The Anthony Wayne boys basketball team showed what kind of team it could be the second time through the Northern Lakes League schedule.
At the end of the season, several players were recognized for their accomplishments.
The Generals went 7-0, defeating every NLL opponent, and finished the year in second place, one game behind league champion Perrysburg. AW finished the season 14-9 overall, 11-3 in the conference.
“We played well at the end,” said AW coach Josh Arthur. “Realistically, everybody was starting to understand their roles at the right time.
“We shot better as a team, we played defense better as a team, we rebounded better as a team – we did everything much better as a team at the end of the season.
“It’s not that we weren’t a team at the beginning of the season, it’s just that we didn’t have shots falling early on for us.”
In addition, Anthony Wayne had to deal with adversity – no different than many other teams – but it affected the team at key points of the season.
“Then, a couple guys got sick, a couple guys were injured. It didn’t come together as early as we would have liked it to,” Arthur said.
“It did come together toward the end and that was because everyone was healthy, everyone was ready to go, no one was sick and they were all playing for each other. Great things happen when you play for each other.”
The Generals were led by NLL Player of the Year Zachary Szul, a 6-foot-4 senior guard, who averaged 17.1 points, six rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.8 steals a game.
Szul shot 46 percent from the field, 50 percent from inside the arc, 33 percent from beyond the 3-point arc and 80 percent from the charity stripe. He was first-team All-NLL and all-district and a Division I All-Ohio special mention selection.
“Zach was tremendous all year. He started the year off well, he finished well, he’s kind of the guy who never has a low,” Arthur said.
“The nice thing is he rebounded for us, he’s our top rebounder and leading scorer. He was just tremendous. He handled the pressure, he scored when we needed him to score, he played defense when we needed him to play defense.
“He honestly did a little bit of everything for us this year. He is an absolutely tremendous athlete. It’s fun to watch him do what he does the best – he handled the ball 90 percent of the time for us and he did it well.”
Arthur says Szul will play college basketball and has narrowed down his choices to four colleges, including NCAA and NAIA Division II schools that have offered him scholarship money.
Bobby Miller, a 6-4 senior guard, is a second-team NLL and honorable mention district selection. He averaged 12.1 points, five rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.8 steals and shot 37 percent from the field.
“Last year as a junior, he started off by hitting seven threes against Lima Senior and then slowed down a little bit, learning how to play great defense for us,” Arthur said.
“This year, he started a little slower because he was injured and just couldn’t play those first couple games, but the first game he did play against Springfield, he was tremendous.
“Once he got his legs underneath him the second half of the year, you could see that he started playing some really good basketball for us. He started really finishing toward the rim and jumping high, but that was all because he got his legs back from being injured.
“Once he did that, we started playing really well as a team because he and Zach started playing off each other and (seniors) Kyle (Ray), Ben (Wyrick) and everybody fed off of him. He did a great job for us. He rebounded the ball well, scored well for us and was just a great inspirational leader. He’s a great athlete.”
Right now, Miller plans to attend Bowling Green State University and major in sports management, although Arthur says he “hasn’t shut the door” on playing college basketball somewhere yet.
He also has offers to play college football from NCAA Division I schools after a stellar fall season at wide receiver and defensive back.
Ray, a 6-0 senior guard, made third-team NLL and honorable mention district. He is a four-year varsity player and two-year starter, averaging six points per game this year.
“He did great things for us. He is one of those guys, I think I’ve said before, he has a knack for reading offenses before anybody else can read them,” Arthur said.
“He recognizes stuff, he pitches it to us and after a time he knows exactly what other guys are doing. There are not a lot of guys who do that. That’s a unique ability to have and he knows what to run, when to run it and how to run it.
“Honestly, it’s kind of like having another coach on the court and it’s been that way the last two years with him. He’s going to be greatly missed. He’s a phenomenal athlete.
“He can dunk the basketball at 6 feet-tall – he does it in practice all the time and he’s a great shooter and driver, too. He’s going to be big shoes to fill.”