Building a team from the ground up is a time-consuming process.
“Two years ago, there were 14 kids in high school playing basketball,” Randall said. “With those numbers, you are just a few injuries or a flu bug from barely being able to dress a whole team.”
Fast-forward two years, and Randall has steadily built up a program that has not had a winning season at the varsity level since 1997-98 season. Numbers across four grades are up to 28 players, and Woodlan is once again fielding a freshman team as well as junior varsity.
A 5-1 start to this season has Woodburn abuzz with talk about a Warriors resurgence.
“We will see how the rest of the year goes, but I would say we are a tad ahead of schedule,” said Randall, who is in his second season as head coach. “Fifteen years (without an over-.500 season) is a long time.”
Despite the long drought of competitive teams, Woodlan has experienced basketball success before. Before pursuing a volleyball career, Lloy Ball was a standout hoopster with the Warriors in the late 1980s and notoriously turned down an offer from Bob Knight to continue his playing career at Indiana.
Gay Martin coached the Warriors for 21 years, compiling 253 wins including all three of the school's sectional championships, the most recent coming in 1997.
But there have not been a lot of recent Woodlan basketball achievements to cheer about. Randall is out to change that.
This season's team has a mix of five seniors and five juniors. The scoring balance has been impressive, with senior guard Shawn McGettigan, senior forward Corbin Evans and junior Jaylin Bennett each stepping up in big spots early this season.
To help the program long term, Randall refused to bring any of the current juniors up to varsity as sophomores a year ago, instead getting them valuable experience at the junior varsity level.
“I wanted them to learn how to win games,” Randall said. “So far, it has carried over well.”
Randall is under no illusions about his team's hot start. He knows that the five programs his squad has beaten have combined for just six victories, with the lone defeat being a 29-point rout at the hands of Concordia Lutheran.
But in years past, the average teams boosted their win-loss record by beating the Warriors. So far this season, it has been the other way around.
“The really good team we played (in Concordia), we got steamrolled,” Randall said. “But Concordia is going to win a lot of games this year, as are some of the teams we have beaten. The most important thing is that the kids are starting to believe and that's important.”
Woodlan has a chance to earn some more respect Friday when it travels to Adams Central (4-2). The Warriors are already 1-0 in the ACAC with a win over Garrett. A second win will surpass the team's league win mark over the previous two seasons (one).
“We will find out where we are on Friday,” Randall said. “We have a long way to go. I tell the kids that I am happy, but I am not satisfied.”