NORMAN — For coach Bryan Merritt, the preseason has been one whirlwind. He’s spent the last several months setting up a schedule, implementing and teaching his system to his new players, and then doing the same thing again when football ended.
It’s been a busy time for Norman North’s new coach, but it’s been a rewarding one as well. Now, it’s time for him to see that work come to fruition. The season tips off tonight when the Timberwolves host Edmond Memorial. The girls’ game is scheduled for 6:15 p.m. while Merritt’s squad will host the two-time defending state champions at 7:45 p.m.
And, while Merritt said that as a coach he always wishes there was more time to practice, he knows it’s time for his team to finally find the floor.
“They’re ready to start playing, and they’ve been working hard for it,” he said. “Edmond Memorial will be a good measuring stick of where we are.”
Wherever the Timberwolves are now, it’s a long way from where Merritt expects them to be. With a roster full of young players and recent transfers from the football program, the Timberwolves have been working to integrate themselves into Merritt’s system. It’s a system that Merritt has found success with in his past coaching stops, including a run to the Class 5A semifinals at Chickasha last season, and one the Timberwolves are perfecting.
But it’s a process that takes time, and Merritt said the team is still settling into a unit.
“It’s been a transition for the kids, and we’re transitioning again since the football kids came over,” he said. “The biggest challenge right now is making a cohesive group. We have good players, but as far as coming together to find that chemistry, you don’t know how long that’s going to take. This is a team that’s going to be much better in January than it is now.”
The Timberwolves certainly have the talent. Marcus Dickinson and Lindy Waters, freshmen sensations a year ago who return on the perimeter as sophomores, will pair with returning seniors Payton Prince and Kairo Rutledge on the inside. North also returns several key role players with varsity experience from a season ago.
The Timberwolves won the majority of their preseason scrimmages and competed well in all of them, including a contest against No. 3 Edmond Santa Fe.
Merritt knows how high the ceiling can be for his team, but it’s not something he’s worrying about as North prepares to host the eighth-ranked Bulldogs.
“What I’m looking for from this game is that I want it to look like we want to win more than Edmond Memorial,” he said. “That means we win the loose ball battle, out-rebound them, beat them down the floor. That’s what I want to see from our guys.”
Follow me @Chosler88
Breaking news, severe weather alerts, AMBER alerts, sports scores from The Norman Transcript are available as text messages right to your phone or mobile device. You decide which type of alerts you want to receive. Find out more or to signup, click here.