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By Dan Perrine
For The Record 

New basketball coach for the Bobcats looks for same success


Last updated 11/27/2023 at 2:31pm

Coach Bryan Whitmire of the Orangefield Bobcats basketball team

The Orangefield boys basketball team has been post season participants the last few years. The Bobcats have a new coach whose goal is to have them continue to play that same playoff caliber game with the round ball on the hard court.

Orangefield hired Bryan Whitmire to replace successful boys basketball coach Jake McDonald who left the Bobcats to coach the Class 5A Montgomery Bears. Raised in nearby Buna, Whitmire played basketball with East Texas Baptist University, coached basketball at Buna for fourteen years, before coaching last season at the The Woodlands High School as an offensive assistant on the varsity.

Whitmire is glad to be back in southeast Texas. "Orangefield came open and the job ended up working out. I'm back in southeast Texas kind of near my family, and I'm super excited about it," Whitmire expressed.

One of the things that was attractive about the job at Orangefield for Whitmire was the success the Bobcats have had in basketball. Whitmire explained, "They've had a great run. Coach McDonald did a great job. The Bobcats have momentum going right now and a really good program, so we're just going to try to keep building on that really good foundation that they've established."

"They have some really good young kids coming, a lot of excitement about it. We've got a lot of participation from the kids right now. I think that's really going a long way and these kids know the game. We've got some Bobcats coming back that have some really good experience because they have had a lot of success over the last couple of years," Whitmire added.

The Bobcats graduated several starters after last season, but they do return a couple of starters and some players with varsity experience that are expected to have a great season. Senior Zane Wrinkle is a three year starter for the Bobcats. Whitmire described, "Zane has a lot of experience, is a really versatile player, a hard worker, he's really going to be a leader for us, and is already off to a great start."

Sophomore Jaden Scales started as a freshman. Scales should take on an even bigger role for the Bobcats. "Jaden's a really good player, shoots the ball well, and has done a good job stepping into that bigger role. Both Jaden and Zane are bringing back the majority of our experience from last year," Whitmire replied.

Kane Smith was frequently the first guy off the bench last season for Orangefield, played good defense, handled the ball well, and will be a starter this year. Whitmire said, "Kane played a big role for the Bobcats last year, and again he's going to have an even bigger role for us this year. I think he's definitely ready for that."

"I'm really excited about those guys that are coming back. The Bobcats have had such a great run last year and the year before which should serve them well this year as they step into those bigger roles that we're going to be able carry that experience into some success," Whitmire analyzed.

The coach is looking for a team effort from the Bobcats in order to be successful this year. Sophomore Griffin Thomas is a newcomer to the varsity who has played very well early. Thomas started in the first couple of games scoring in double digits both times and playing solid defense.

The biggest Bobcat at 6-7 is senior Kadyn Rucker who will see many more minutes on the court than he did last year. Rucker is a good shot blocker.

Bringing a lot of athleticism and versality to Orangefield is Mason Manning a sophomore. Manning will be used to guard dangerous shooters on opposing teams.

Senior Garret Rawls is stepping into a bigger role after he played some minutes last year on the varsity. Whitmire indicated, "Garret's a great rebounder, great defender, really hard worker, and a great leader."

A good team will be reliant on a strong bench. The Bobcats have three seniors that provide that needed depth in Scotty Szakmeister, Kamden Hare, and Logan Hickey-Broussard.

"All of those guys are going to do a good job along with the returners that we have. They are the core of our rotation. The year is young and we'll be looking forward to those guys growing. Since we have a lot of guys that are getting their first experience on varsity I think we're really going to see some growth in our team as the year goes," Whitmire emphasized.

The season opened on a positive score as Orangefield defeated the Bridge City Cardinals 64-52 at Bridge City. Zane Wrinkle scored 24 and Jaden Scales had 21 points. The Bobcats were 11 of 20 from three-point range.

Three days later the Bobcats struggled with their shooting and fell to the Vidor Pirates 61-55 at Vidor. The first home game was a victory for Orangefield 75-61 over Onalaska. Scales pumped in 33 points to lead the Bobcats.

Whitmire evaluated, "We get better even in the losses. I think we saw things in the early games that we need to work on and since we've just added some football players to the roster we're still growing."

The expectation is for the Orangefield Bobcats to build on their success from the past several seasons. "We talk every day about not looking at the end of the road too much. We're really more focused on the process. I would say our ultimate goal is to get better every day, and the most important game is the next game. We're not looking too far down the road as far as results, and we've talked about not being results oriented. We're trying to be the best version of ourselves. Once district rolls around that's when we're trying to play our best basketball and get into the playoffs at the highest seed we can possibly get and then make a playoff run," Whitmire concluded.


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