COLUMBIA — When it comes to success and the Rock Bridge boy’s basketball team, the Bruins' philosophy is team first, individual second.
Starting junior guard Ricky Kreklow is an electric player. He excels at shooting, handling the ball and playing defense. Last season, Kreklow came off the bench. He said he would have loved to start, but his experience on the bench helped him learn the team-first concept.
“The bench is very important because the thing that separates good teams from the bad teams is the bench,” Kreklow said. “We are really deep. You can have the best starting five in Missouri, but if your bench is weak, you become an average team.”
Kreklow said when he started the game on the bench, he could visualize what needed to be done before he got on the floor.
“I was able to study and analyze more,” Kreklow said. “I was able to learn and watch. If we were doing well, I could see what we were doing well and vice versa. If we were making mistakes, I could see what we were doing wrong.”
Former Bruins’ guard John Worley, who graduated last year, started ahead of Kreklow last season. He said the time Kreklow spent on the bench probably made him a better player. Worley came off the bench his junior season and said this is the best approach to take with most players.
“After coming off the bench, you understand more of a team concept then if you came in and started right off the bat and that is something Coach (Jim) Scanlon tries to teach,” Worley said.
Guards Travis Ward and Matt Kelly and forwards Briton Rudd and Charlie Henderson make up the Bruins’ bench this season. All four players would start on most teams, but what makes them successful is that they know their role is to bring energy when the starting five are tired.
Rudd began the season as a starter but moved to the bench to help the team.
“I’m still anxious to get in whether I start or not,” Rudd said. “Whenever they say my name, I jump up, and I’m ready.”
Ward, who has suffered three broken arms since his freshman year, said he is happy to play at all. This is his first year on varsity and he said he relishes at the chance to contribute.
“It’s hard work paying off,” Ward said. “I’m being able to experience what I’ve been watched the last three years. It’s been a lot of fun.”
Ward’s humble approach allows him to excel at his role. Like Kreklow last year, he is able to visualize the game better than those who get more minutes.
“It’s a long game,” Ward said. “If you’re able to wear them down by bringing in fresh guys, then we’ll be able to blow by them. When our bench is playing well, I think we play our best as a team.”
Scanlon said the bench has been instrumental in many of the team’s victories this year, whether it was its scoring or extra energy for a team that needed a spark.
“This is a deeper bench than we’ve had in past years,” Scanlon said. “We give them a lot of playing time. We have nine guys every night, so on any night we can find at least five or six who are playing well.”
Rock Bridge (25-2)
vs. Waynesville (21-6)
WHEN: 6 p.m.
WHERE: Union High School