The Westosha Central High School varsity boys basketball coaching staff consists of head coach James Hyllberg along with assistants Marcus Zackery, David Cutts and Keith Skrzynecki. Zackery has directed the local feeder program, which helped the Falcons reach the WIAA Division 2 state tournament this season.

Community lays groundwork with Westosha basketball feeder program

By Jason Arndt

Before Westosha Central High School hired James Hyllberg as head coach of the boys basketball team, which endured seven consecutive losing seasons, the local feeder program stayed busy developing some of the future Falcons who played a role in the squad’s first state appearance in school history.

Jonathan Lindh, who started as a teacher and coach at the school in 2005 before taking the athletic director position in 2012, remembers when the local feeder program was in its infancy.

“I was with the basketball program at the start of the feeder program,” Lindh said. “It really started as a vision by coach (Brent) Mansky who had played for Waunakee. He realized that in order to raise the program to new heights, we had to expose the players to the best talent in Wisconsin.”

At the start, Mansky had the help of Pat Finnemore, Mary Sue Lux and other community members to lay the foundation.

Following Mansky’s departure, Finnemore continued to run the program before passing the baton to current Westosha Central assistant coach Marcus Zackery in 2013.

“Every year, the program has improved top to bottom, and the youth kids enter the high school with a great skill set,” Lindh said.

All hands on deck
When Zackery took over as boys director of the Westosha Hoops program, he stressed fundamentals, and garnered insight from coaches at Westosha Central.

“Our philosophy for the program is to first make sure these young boys are fundamentally sound,” Zackery said. “We do summer camps and skill camps during the winter with our varsity staff to ensure they are getting the correct fundamentals.”

Additionally, according to Zackery, courtesy of supportive volunteers, they developed a framework for strong defense, communication and teamwork.

The volunteers, he said, were Mike Lois, Steve Reiter, Rudy Greco, Russ Mueller, Ben Michelau, Mike Hartke, Keith Skrzynecki, Peter Haubrich, Jeff Close, Brian LeQuesne, Anthony Sippy, Brian Anderson, Doug Burns, Tyler Hughes and Nick Picchieti.

“These coaches have put in, and/or still volunteer their time and dedication to the program,” Zackery said. “Without them, the program would not be what it is now, I can not thank them enough.”

The feeder coaches, who placed an emphasis on defense, have often sought new ideas and plays from the high school coaching staff.

“My feeder coaches always come and ask the varsity staff for ideas and thoughts about plays, drills and different things to help make the teams better,” Zackery said.

One other person he credits is his wife, Andrea, for offering the program unconditional support throughout the years.

“(It) is for all the behind-the-scenes work she does, for always giving great ideas to make the program as successful as it has been, and her support can not go unrecognized,” Zackery said.

With a strong core of volunteer coaches, the program helped the Falcons develop key players this year, notably from the junior class.

Junior-laden team
The program, according to Zackery, saw Jaeden Zackery, Samy Greco, Kyle Lois, Dylan Anderson, Jake Mueller, John Marcquenski, Adam Simmons and Joey Michelau blossom into varsity players for this year’s team.

The lone player who did not stay was Gabe Hartke, who moved to Illinois, and is still thought of by Zackery.

“One kid I have to mention is Gabe Hartke, he moved away and had been with us since the start, he goes to school in Barrington,” he said. “Miss that kid dearly.”

Meanwhile, for the rest of the players, they created a stronger team bond in the ensuing years, including recognizing each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

The team bond, according to Zackery, has continued.

“If one kid is down, the next will pick them up and help carry them over the finish line,” he said. “These boys have been one big happy family since the fourth grade.”

Dream come true
When they were in fifth grade, Zackery remembered a conversation he had with them as they headed to a state tournament, which came true on March 16.

“I remember sitting with them and saying ‘If we keep working hard and getting better, when you get to high school, you will be on a state team,” Zackery recalled.

“We were two wins away their junior year from being state champs,” Zackery said. “They are a great group, and joined with the seniors we had this year, they all complimented each other very well to help us get to state this season.”

While the dream came true, the process took time and patience, according to Zackery.

“I ask the parents to be patient and trust the progress, the progress is starting to pay off, and we have many years of top competitiveness approaching the high school program,” he said.

As the feeder program continues, Zackery stays in constant touch with Hyllberg and the rest of the varsity coaches, who learn of the high school’s upcoming prospects.

At a tournament in February, the varsity coaches watch the future Falcons hold court, where they have seen recent success.

“This year, my sixth grade team was invited to state,” Zackery said. “Next year, I will have three teams playing in the A level in the Wisconsin Youth Basketball League tournament we play in every year and hopefully all three will get invited to state.”


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