The 2017-18 season was the one The Vanguard School boys’ basketball coach Joe Wetters had been looking forward to for a couple of years.
The potential was obvious after Seth Fuqua put up more than 20 points per game in each of his first two seasons, but the complementary pieces came together this year, as the Coursers continued their upward projection.
After going 6-14 in 2014-15, the Coursers improved to 13-10 the following season before a 15-8 campaign in 2016-17.
This year, the Coursers jumped to 21-3, swept through the Tri-Peaks League, won a state playoff game for the first time in Wetters’ tenure and exceeded expectations in the process. Wetters earned Gazette Preps Class 3-1A Boys Basketball Coach of the Year for continuing the steady turnaround.
“I think we’ve been building up to this season for the last couple years,” Wetters said.
“I don’t think going undefeated in the league was our expectation. We wanted to win a league title.”
The biggest difference in the 2017-18 season was the Coursers’ ability to close out tight games. Wetters said Vanguard won seven of its league games by a total of 31 points.
“I think just having the confidence that in the end, they were going to figure it out. We practice all those situations,” Wetters said. “That’s one thing we’ve gotten better at as a coaching staff, getting the situational stuff in their heads.”
And while it helped Fuqua continued his progression, the emergence of sophomore Dominique Clifford (14.1 points, 4.6 rebounds, 4.7 assists), junior Carter Milroy (10 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.8 steals), senior Tyler Wheeler-Temple (7.7 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.2 steals) and junior Sterling Lee (6.2 points, 6.4 rebounds) helped take Vanguard to another level.
“We said if we want to set these goals, then you guys are going to have to step up and be confident,” Wetters said, recalling a preseason conversation.
“Seth puts that confidence in them. He passes the ball willingly.”
And Wetters’ star has confidence his coach has the team in the best position to continue the upward trajectory next year.
“He really puts all his time and all his effort into making the team better,” Fuqua said. “He’s always looking to improve as a coach, and that’s really what I think makes him such a great coach. He’s always willing to learn.”