Wesley ‘figures out’ his players en route to season success

GVL Archive / Matt Butterfield
Head coach Ric Wesley argues a call during a past game

GVL Archive / Matt Butterfield Head coach Ric Wesley argues a call during a past game

Kevin VanAntwerpen

As he enters his seventh season as head coach of the Grand Valley State University men’s basketball program, it is more apparent than ever that head coach Ric Wesley’s player-centric attitude has helped shape the team into a tightly-knit group of young men with focus, purpose and determination.

“We want to develop these young guys to their maximum potential athletically, socially and academically,” Wesley said. “We’re producing future leaders.”

Wesley, who has led the Lakers to 153 wins and only 39 losses since taking over as head coach in 2004, has extensive experience from coaching at schools across the country. He served a total of 22 years as either assistant coach or associate head coach at universities in Texas, Iowa and Missouri, along with coaching several youth sports programs.

“Rick’s very good at figuring out his players,” said GVSU Director of Athletics Tim Selgo. “Their personalities, strengths, weaknesses and what makes them tick – he incorporates that well into team chemistry and individual player development.”

Often extending his influence beyond the basketball arena, Wesley takes interest in not only his team’s playing abilities, but also their personal lives.

“He always has his door open so we can talk to him,” said senior Justin Ringler. “He likes to get to know us on a personal level. He’ll ask about what we enjoy and about our girlfriends.”

The opportunity to learn more about his players and to better them as both athletes and individuals is the highlight of the job, Wesley said.

“Certainly from the outside looking in, they evaluate us on wins and losses,” he said. “But we get more out of it from the chance to work with young people.”

Wesley compared the team to family roles.

“My relationship with my guys is much like a parent,” he added. “You certainly hope your guys like you and enjoy being around you, but that’s probably not your daily goal. Your goal is that later on, once they’re long gone, they’ll look back on you and appreciate the guidance and advice.”

But just because he values his athletes as people does not mean Wesley is not serious about winning. His players said he demands the absolute best from them, and he has a drive to win no matter what.

“He’s just really down to business about getting things done,” Ringler said. “He’s in the office all day long looking at tapes and reports. He’s always prepared. I’d say he’s one of the most competitive guys I’ve ever been around.”

Wesley agreed he is a competitive individual. He also called himself driven with a strong tendency to persevere through the hardships associated with collegiate athletics. He considers that sort of determination a large key to his success.

“Just look at the places I’ve been,” he said. “A lot of people, especially young coaches, wouldn’t be able to pack up their bags and move to Iowa at the age of 22.”

As the 2010-11 basketball season comes around, one thing is certain — Wesley will continue to challenge the Lakers with his work ethic and emphasis on interpersonal relationships.

“I’ve always been a big believer that if you work hard and do things the right way, things will work themselves out,” he said. “It’s worked for me so far.”

The Lakers will have an exhibition game against the University of Dayton on Nov. 1 before beginning the regular season at home against Marygrove College on Nov. 13

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