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Power Strengthens the Bobcats’ program

In second season, 27-year-old coach has seen North Port boys basketball team make strides over the summer

NORTH PORT

To say Ryan Power is further along as North Port High boys basketball coach than a year ago would be a vast understatement.

The Bobcats have picked up nine summer-league victories over a pair of tournaments — June 3-4 at the Charlotte Shootout in Punta Gorda (6-0) and Florida Gulf Coast University (3-3) this past weekend. At this point a year ago, Power wasn’t even the coach.

“It was huge,” said Power, whose team will play at Embry-Riddle in Daytona Beach next weekend. “Moving forward, our confidence level will increase. It showed we graduated four guys, but we’re going to be OK without them.”

North Port returns four starters from a district championship team that reached the regional semifinals before losing to Lakewood Ranch High, which reached the Class 7A State Final 4. Bryan O’Boyle, Brandon Graff, Adam Cohen and Ben Via give the Bobcats as good a returning group as any around.

“The summer is about teaching the kids how to play hard and building winning habits,” Power said. “Getting a hand up on every shot, boxing out, getting ball pressure. We’re not too worried about executing plays over the summer, but if the guys will buy in and give me as much effort as they can, that’s what I’m looking for.”

All four of the team’s returning starters are 6-foot or taller and interchangeable on the court. “I love the versatility our guys have,” Power said. “Four of the guys we have on the court at any time are able to grab rebounds and either make a solid outlet pass or dribble up the court and get us into our sets. On the defensive end, each guy is able to pick up anyone on the court.”

One player who made a strong showing in the Charlotte Shootout was 6-3 Aaron Dismukes, a rising senior. “He has made some big strides,” Power said. “We’re hoping to see this throughout the summer and be really consistent.”

Last season, the injury-ravaged Bobcats went 16-9, including 4-0 in the three-team Class 7A-District 12. “It was a very unfortunate year as far as injuries go,” Power said. “But I definitely learned I’ve got to set the tone early and make the guys believe in the things you are teaching every day at practice.”

The Bobcats developed depth with players in unexpected roles.

“Players stepped into roles and got very confident with them and then when players came back from injuries, they had to find new roles,” Power said. “We had five or six injuries with players getting accustomed to new roles the entire year. It helped in the confidence level, but it did not allow them to get comfortable in the rotation.”

The injuries forced Power to change his philosophy on establishing roles.

“I’d like my guys to know what’s expected out of them each game and the mindset of how many minutes they are going to play,” he said. “And if they are doing something positive, they will get to stay on the court. This is what we are looking for, so they don’t try to play outside of themselves.”

Taking over for Travis Slanger, who guided North Port to its first Final 4 in 2014-15, Power relied heavily on returning assistant coach Tom McLaughlin, who has been a mainstay on the North Port bench.

“He made the transition easier,” Power said of McLaughlin. “I was able to talk to him and see what the kids had learned and how it related to what I was going to teach. The kids really respect him.”

Nearing his first year anniversary on the job, Power is much more comfortable going forward into his second season.

“I’m definitely happy,” he said. “This offseason the participation has been unbelievable. Very rarely did we have any kids miss weight room or open gyms. To see the kids buying into the program and wanting to get better shows me the potential the program has.”

Power upgraded to a more challenging schedule for the upcoming season but recognizes the importance of district games. In the district, with only Fort Myers Riverdale and Naples Gulf Coast, the No. 1 seed gets a bye in the district tournament and automatically qualifies for the regional tournament.

“It makes every single game matter,” Power said. “If you lose a game you may go from the No. 1 seed to the No. 3 seed. This year I set the entire schedule and I tried to get as many competitive games as possible so moving into the playoffs we’ve played solid teams on the road and prepared ourselves for the scenario we may be in in the postseason.”

The 27-year-old Power firmly has his grip on the North Port boys basketball program.

“I was actually telling the players after the weekend I’m much more comfortable with with them,” he said. “I have relationships with the players as to who can take criticism, areas each player needs to develop, how I should coach them and they know my system. We’re much further ahead at this point, but we still have things to build on.”

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