Woodbury boys basketball: A long time in the makingThe state tournament trip has been years in the making for Royals.
By: Mike Longaecker, Editor, Woodbury Bulletin
During a timeout in the closing moments of Thursday’s section championship, Jordan Voit leaned in toward the huddle, thrust out his fist and gave his Royals teammates a passionate reminder.
“This is our time,” the Woodbury senior exclaimed just before the huddle broke.
The Royals went on to beat the Roseville Raiders in an overtime thriller that advanced them to the state tournament for the first time since 2007.
For Woodbury’s seniors, the accomplishment has been a long time in the making.
Voit explained how many of the players – some of whom have played together since elementary school – realized that they could one day challenge for a state title.
“As sophomores, we knew that this would be our time as seniors,” he said after Thursday’s game.
Indeed, several of those seniors have been together for years. A youth sports photo from January 2006 depicts the Woodbury Athletic Association 6A team that won a tournament championship – its second of the year at that point – at North St. Paul.
Pictured in the photo were current Royals seniors Voit, Tyler Graves, Ryan Fritze, Ben Rexroth and Connor McKeen.
“We play so well together,” Graves said. “We know what each other’s going to do – and we can shoot.”
Those youthful dreams became clearer as the players got older and more experienced.
By the time this season began, seniors Connor McKeen and Ben Rexroth said the players knew the goal was achievable.
“We knew what we could do,” McKeen said.
Rexroth said the payoff has been rewarding.
“It’s a great feeling,” he said.
Scott Swansson, the team’s coach, said he likes knowing that the players had figured out long ago where they wanted to be, come March 2012.
“That’s the way it should be,” he said.
But that core group didn’t represent the only Woodbury seniors with their eye on a state title for a long time.
Standout senior guard Rickey Suggs enrolled last year at Woodbury after St. Bernard’s closed and represents the only Royals player with experience at state.
He was a freshman on the St. Bernard’s team that competed at state for the 2009 Class AA title. The team was led by Jordair Jett, who now plays for the St. Louis Billikens.
Suggs said he remembered how special the accomplishment was to Jett as a senior.
“I want the same feeling that he had that year,” Suggs said.
The addition of Suggs and his brother Renard Suggs – who also enrolled out of St. Bernard’s – added a new layer to Woodbury’s nucleus of players. This year they were two of the Royals’ top three scorers and have been instrumental in the team’s march to state.
Swansson said the addition of the Suggs brothers originally relegated starters to the bench – a move that might have sent a strain through some teams.
Not at Woodbury, he said.
“They realize that these guys are really good players,” the coach said.
What’s emerged has been an uncommonly cohesive unit, he said.
Swansson said the players on this year’s team possess great unselfishness.
“Even with their playing time,” he said.
He recalled instances where he would prepare to sub in one player for another who was on a hot streak.
“And he’d say, ‘Keep him in there coach. He’s playing great,’
“And that’s a nice thing to have … (it’s) more about the team than it is about individual accomplishment.”