Bill Gavers always has felt a special connection to his alma mater, Hastings College.
So the longtime Grand Island Central Catholic High School coach jumped at the chance to take over the NAIA Division II basketball program from Lance Creech, who had announced at the start of the season that this would be his last year.
“It was a great opportunity to get a new challenge and get things going here,” Gavers said.
The Omaha Bryan graduate had a 421-127 record in 22 years at Central Catholic. His teams made 12 trips to the state tournament, won a state title in 2000, finished runner up in 2008 and had 19 top-10 ratings finishes.
Gavers played two years for Tom Brosnihan at Dana College before transferring to Hastings, where he competed during the 1986-87 and ’87-88 seasons for coach Mike Trader, who was also his coach at Bryan. Trader now works for Hastings College’s foundation, but Gavers said it’s unlikely Trader would join his staff as an assistant.
“That would probably be a smart move, but I think he’s busy with foundation stuff,” Gavers said.
Gavers said he was a good defensive player and hopefully a good leader for the Broncos, and that’s what he wants to emphasize with his new players, whom he met with Monday.
Defense will be stressed, and he said he’ll run a motion offense based on the team’s strengths and abilities.
Six seniors will return from this year’s 20-11 team, which finished 11-9 and tied for fourth in the Great Plains Athletic Conference. Tobin Reinwald, who was out for the season with a knee injury, will be back. He was the team’s leading scorer and rebounder two years ago.
“There are some good pieces,” Gavers said. “Coach gave me some game film. I’ll see where we are at and what our needs are and dive into recruiting right away.”
There will be a learning curve for him at the collegiate level, he said, but the basics — taking care of the ball, good shot selection, a strong defense — are the same.
Gavers is the second high school coach to join the GPAC ranks in two seasons. Longtime Beatrice coach Jim Weeks took over at Doane College and led the Tigers to a 21-10 and 11-9 GPAC record this season.
Midland coach Todd Eisner said with the new coaches, the league is becoming more competitive.
“It’s 20 games of an absolute meat grinder,” he said. “There is just no easy game. You have to be ready to play every Wednesday and Saturday in the GPAC.”
Gavers said playing in the league will be a challenge, with teams such as Northwestern and Dordt dominating at home. Both have qualified for the national tournament.
“Being able to defend your home court,” he said, “and be tough enough to go on the road and manufacture wins is going to be a huge thing.”
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