The opportunity to coach a little closer to home was a no-brainer for Wes Hockman.
Hockman accepted an offer to become the girls basketball coach at Northwestern, leaving Black River after four seasons. The move won’t become official until an April 22 school board meeting.
The 43-year-old Ashland resident and longtime AAU coach compiled an 18-74 record with the Pirates, including 3-19 this season.
“It happened very quickly and unexpectedly,” Hockman said Monday. “I know (former Northwestern) Coach (Roy) Woodring, he made a family choice to step down. It’s something I thought about and prayed about.
“I’m very excited for the opportunity, but it’s bittersweet because of the relationships at Black River. It’s tough to leave kids and families behind … This is a family type of thing for me, because Northwestern is 15 minutes from home. I get to spend more time with my (three) children.”
Black River will graduate only center Grace Channel and backup Summer Merry this summer. Guards Sarah Kozik and Lydia Wacker again will be the backbone after averaging 9.1 and 6.5 points as juniors.
The Pirates also are slated to return forwards Kennedy Petruzzi, Ashley Kalman, Abbie Graves, Kaylynn Maurer and Taylor Hendershot, as well as junior varsity leading scorer Faith Simons.
“Every coaching job has a unique set of circumstances,” Hockman said. “They all come with challenges, and at Black River we were trying to build a program from the ground up. It was a program that didn’t have a youth program in place, and that’s probably one of my greatest pride points. We have had more than 30 kids playing (youth) for two years running.”
Black River has one winning season since 1991 (2010-11) and is 34-148 (.187) over the last eight. The Pirates will join Brookside, Clearview, Columbia, Firelands, Keystone, Oberlin and Wellington in the Lorain County Conference next winter.
The job opening may be more attractive than those facts indicate, however, because the seventh-grade team went 17-1 behind the high-scoring exploits of Riley Kubitz, who had 25 points, 12 rebounds and 10 steals in a Patriot Athletic Conference Tournament championship win over Columbia.
“It makes it harder to leave because the future could be really bright,” Hockman said. “Even the eighth-grade class doubled its win total from the year before.”
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