Everybody will get a shot to play for Eagan boys

New hoops coach to use weekend tourney to see what he has

There’s probably a lengthy list of people interested in how the Eagan boys basketball team will look under new head coach Matt Vollum.

Here’s another name to add to that list: Matt Vollum.

Because the Wildcats have a number of relatively inexperienced varsity players and a new coaching staff, Vollum chose to have the team spend most of its preseason time practicing. He scheduled only one scrimmage, but then the opponent canceled it.

So when the Wildcats play Fridley at 6 p.m. Friday in the Polar Tip-Off Classic in North St. Paul, it will be the first time this season they’ve seen outside competition.

“The first two games for us (Eagan also will play at the North St. Paul tourney Saturday) are about finding out what we have and who can play,” Vollum said. “But I think we’ll compete.

“We’re short on practice time anyway, and with the players not knowing the coaches, I really wanted the schedule to be built around practices.”

Vollum, a former head boys basketball coach at Bloomington Kennedy, succeeds Mike Sullivan, who was Eagan’s interim coach last season. Sullivan took over the program for Kurt Virgin, who was placed on administrative leave before the 2011-12 season began and ultimately resigned.

“I thought it was an ideal job,” said Vollum, who works in the University of Minnesota’s kinesiology department. “It’s one of the best basketball programs out there and one of the best schools out there.

“I haven’t heard one person say anything (negative) about the job. That’s what stood out to me.”

Although the Wildcats don’t have a lot of varsity experience, Vollum said they are a team with some “length” and players who can get to the basket.

Senior captain Ryan Johnson, a 6-foot-4 guard, is the leading scorer among the returnees after averaging 4.2 points a game last season. The Wildcats’ other captain, forward Mark Woodcock, saw some limited varsity duty last season. Junior guard Michael Gorder scored points in nine games.

Where playing time is concerned, Vollum said it’s come one, come all. It’s there for the taking.

At this point, “we don’t have a starting five,” the coach said. “We’ll play a bunch of people this weekend, see how it all shakes out, and we should have a better idea next week.”

The Wildcats might be deep enough to play a full-court game if Vollum chooses, but it’ll be tough to run if they don’t rebound. That’s one of the areas on which they’ve spent a lot of time.

“We’re trying to find five guys who can consistently box out and keep the opponents from rebounding,” the coach said.

Vollum was hired in May, after the team’s summer training schedule had already been made. Rather than changing it, he let the players continue with that plan and brought them in for a four-day camp during the summer.

“I’m very encouraged,” Vollum said. “We’re not big, but we do have good athletes. And I’m impressed with the dedication. The guys are working hard.

“Right now, I think we’re a little ahead of schedule when you consider we don’t have a lot of varsity experience and there’s an all-new coaching staff.”

After the North St. Paul tournament, Eagan will return to action at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Wayzata.

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