Dave Veres waited patiently for Whitmer coach Bruce Smith to give him the one-on-one meeting he'd longed for since he was first moved up to the varsity basketball team as a sophomore.
That talk finally happened earlier this year.
“The last couple of years I'd been a role player,” Veres said. “This year I've been asked to score more, rebound more and get more players involved on the team.”
Veres, a 6-2 senior, was basically told by Smith that his time had arrived to serve as the Panthers' team leader. Veres's days of looking to his teammates for leadership and direction are in the past. As the most experienced player on a team that includes 10 seniors, Veres is the player everyone else defers to this season.
“I'm very pleased that coach Smith has given me this role and I hope I don't let him down,” said Veres, who plays mostly guard, but is also capable of playing forward.
Smith leaned on B.J. Barre last season for leadership on the court. Barre, who this year is playing football at Ohio State, averaged 20 points per game while playing the lead role on a team that finished 12-11 overall and 7-5 in the Great Lakes League.
Smith said he believes Veres is the player best suited to fill the void left by Barre.
“He knows he's got the most varsity experience,” Smith said. “When you have a guy who starts 50 varsity games, you expect him to play well.”
Considered a favorite in the hunt for the league title, the Panthers have won four straight games after losing their season opener against Waite. The Panthers are 3-0 in the GLL heading into tonight's game at Lorain Admiral King, also 3-0 in the league.
Veres played his worst game of the season against Waite, committing 10 turnovers while being held to seven points. It wasn't the kind of start Veres imagined for himself or the team.
“I pretty much blame myself for the loss for that game,” Veres said. “I didn't have the team in control for that game.”
The unexpected defeat resulted in Veres finding himself engaged in another meaningful conversation. This time it was a talk with himself.
“I told myself I had to step it up a notch. I told myself if I don't get myself together we're not going to have that great season that we want.”
Veres's introspection produced immediate results.
His next time out, he pumped in a team-high 21 points to lead Whitmer past St. Francis de Sales. More importantly, Veres, who is averaging a team-leading 15.2 points and five rebounds, was guilty of committing only two turnovers in the game.
Last Saturday in a victory over Findlay, Veres produced a season-high 25 points, seven rebounds and three assists while turning the ball over just once. He also made 11 of 12 free throws.
“When he reduces his turnovers he can be very good,” Smith said. “You can't have a three-year starter committing seven turnovers and expect to win. Sometimes he gets going a little too fast and forces the action.”
Taking care of the basketball has always been an issue of concern regarding Veres. He's lost playing time in the past because of unforced errors handling the ball. It wasn't uncommon for him to turn it over a half-dozen times each game.
“We talk to him about the turnovers,” Smith said. “He comes out of the game when he makes a stupid play, and he hates coming out.
“It's like a kid getting caught with his hand in the cookie jar. When he makes a ridiculous play he comes and sits with us.”
No one is more aware of the significance of turnovers than Veres. And most of his turnovers have occurred while trying to distribute the ball, not while trying to create shots for himself.
Veres recognizes the turnover problem and hopes he has figured out the solution.
“I have to look to shoot more, because when I shoot more it forces the turnovers down because I'm not trying to force the basketball to my teammates.”
Considered one of the team's best outside shooters, Veres has the green light to shoot this season.
“Whatever it takes to win I'll do,” Veres said.
Even if it means holding another meeting with himself.
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