Maricopa boys basketball

Paul Gretkierewicz goes through drills with the Maricopa High School boys basketball team during a recent practice.

MARICOPA — With a new coach on the sideline, the Maricopa boys basketball team is hoping to bounce back in a big way after suffering its worst record in many years.

After enduring a 2-21 season with a roster that lacked much basketball experience, Anthony Fuller stepped away from the program. He has been replaced by Paul Gretkierewicz.

The first-time varsity coach comes to Maricopa from Paradise Honors in Surprise, where he was the head junior varsity and assistant varsity coach. On that staff, he reached the semifinals in the 3A conference the past two years. After moving to Ahwatukee, Gretkierewicz saw the job opening at Maricopa and took advantage.

“I tried to bring in that culture, putting in a lot of time during the summer,” he said. “We were in the gym a lot, but we’re still kind of molding. We have four sophomores up on varsity, and we have a couple guys who came out who didn’t play basketball last year. So we’re still trying to implement our game plan.”

Points are going to be at a premium for the Rams this season, as the players have struggled shooting so far during practice. Gretkierewicz knows that it’s going to be up to the defense to create a lot of key scoring opportunities, allowing the players to get out in the open court and drive to the rim.

To try to get as many turnovers as possible, the Rams plan to throw a bunch of different looks at opponents throughout a game, including different zone schemes and traps in order to confuse and frustrate them.

Eventually, Gretkierewicz hopes to implement a dribble-drive motion offense. The Rams don’t have a lot of size, so the plan is to create space by placing four players at a time around the arch. Six-foot-four sophomore Merhauti Xepera will be taking a lot of the responsibilities in the paint, and Gretkierewicz believes he has enough athleticism to take advantage of mismatches.

Getting that offense down will rely a lot of the Rams’ ball handlers. As of now, Gretkierewicz plans to use a rotation of Steven Forrester, Samuel Justin and Ilijah Johnson in that role.

Gretkierewicz said at every school he’s been at, there’s never been a preseason win expectation put on the teams, and he doesn’t want to start that now. Instead, he wants to develop habits and chemistry that are going to be necessary to eventually start winning some games.

“We’re just trying to work on the winning habits, and hopefully the wins will follow,” he said. “I’m not a guy who’s going to sit here and hope for so many wins.”

The Rams start their regular season at home on Tuesday against Glendale Apollo.

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