MUSKEGON – It’s the quiet ones you have to watch.
That’s especially the case with Oakridge’s boys basketball team and the Eagles’ one-two punch of seniors Ethan Jozsa and Garrett Wever.
They’re not big talkers, but that’s OK by coach Tracy Ruel: They let their play do the talking. And their play, especially over the second half of the season, has made the Eagles a tough out down the stretch.
Oakridge (12-8) is riding a seven-game winning streak entering this week’s Division 2 district at Spring Lake. The Eagles have climbed to the No. 2 seed in the district and they’ve received a bye into Wednesday’s 5:30 p.m. semifinals, where they’ll face the winner of Monday’s Fruitport-Montague game.
“We always call Garrett ‘Woody’ (Harrelson). He’s coming in, in a ‘White Men Can’t Jump’ (kind of way). He comes in with his goggles. You look at him getting off the bus and you’re like, ‘Who is this kid?’ And he comes out and he just plays,” Ruel said about the 5-foot-11, 170-pound Wever, a combo guard, who is averaging 15.5 points, 6.9 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 2.1 steals.
“Ethan’s a gentle giant. He’s the big, quiet guy down low. He doesn’t say much, but he’s big, strong, he takes it hard to the basket. He just realized that when he goes hard and strong, there’s not a person who can stop him,” added Ruel about the 6-5, 250-pound Jozsa, a Hillsdale College football signee, who also has game on the basketball court with a team-best 17.3 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per contest.
Add senior Hunter DeLora, a wing who takes it upon himself to lock up on defense, and Oakridge features a tough and seasoned trio. The 6-1 DeLora has picked up the scoring pace of late, and he’s averaging 10.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.2 steals per game.
DeLora, Jozsa and Wever have all been friends for a long time, but the latter two may as well be brothers – that’s how close they are and how long they’ve known each other.
Jozsa’s and Wever’s families – Mark and Brooke Jozsa, Paul and Heather Wever – have been connected going way back. Red Pastor, an assistant coach for Oakridge’s basketball team, is connected to both families.
“We started a team in, like, fifth (grade) – that’s when we started playing together,” Garrett Wever said about his relationship with Ethan Jozsa. “We started playing good together just because we know each other. We knew each other and we’ve known each other.”
Said Jozsa: “I think getting to play with mostly the same group growing all the way up and now we get to play on kind of the biggest stage for us now, it’s kind of starting to pay off a little bit. It’s really cool being able to do that.”
Jozsa and Wever don’t have to say much to each other. They have an understanding and know how to read each other.
Besides, as Ruel quipped, when DeLora and senior Kimball Hanks are around, there’s no need or room for Jozsa or Wever to talk.
“I mean, they’re a little looser around their friends. They’ll chat more,” DeLora said about Jozsa and Wever.
“I feel like I talk most,” DeLora added with a laugh. “I like to crack jokes, I like to get them going and we all make fun of each other. We’re best friends.”
While Jozsa and Wever may both seem a bit docile, don’t be fooled. They’re as competitive as they come.
Not only do they form what’s arguably the top one-two punch in West Michigan Conference basketball this season, they feed off each other in the classroom. Both carry grade-point averages over 4.0, and they’ve been jockeying for position in the top 10 of their graduating class.
While Jozsa’s immediate future is planned with Hillsdale, Wever is still trying to figure out his next step.
Ruel said that both lead by example. He called them “great guys and great teammates.”
Photos by Scott DeCamp | CatchMark
Prior to this season, Oakridge was considered by some to be a top contender in the conference. The Eagles had their struggles in a 5-8 start, but they’re on a roll and now seem to be living up to their potential.
Recently, Oakridge rolled league-title contender Ravenna (65-41) and edged eventual conference champion Whitehall (62-60 in overtime) in the same week.
With Jozsa and Wever quietly leading the way, the Eagles appear primed to make some noise in what appears to be a wide-open district.
“It felt really good to win both of those games, beating the two top teams in the conference,” Jozsa said. “It’s just kind of (a sign) for us to know where we could have been at the start of the season, so that was really good for us and I think it’s going to help us a lot going into districts.”
Said Wever: “I think that we can compete with any team in the district, especially if we keep playing how we’ve been. And I think that, especially the game against Whitehall, helped because having a game close like that and battling it at the end and being able to pull that out, I think that helped get us ready for districts. I think it’s going to be a lot of close games, very competitive.”
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