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Collver Is New Bears Coach

Rob Collver coached the Maple Grove boys during the 2018-19 season after taking over on an interim basis during the 2017-18 season. P-J file photo by Scott Reagle

Rob Collver has been teaching junior high students for five years at Frewsburg.

Now he’ll get a chance to coach some of the boys he’s had in class.

Collver was named the new Bears boys varsity basketball coach at the school’s Board of Education meeting in July.

“It’s always been in the back of my mind because I knew Tom (Nelson) was getting up there in years and looking to retire at some point,” Collver said earlier this week.

Collver will have some big shoes to fill, taking over for the aforementioned longtime Frewsburg coach, who stepped down following his youngest son’s final season last winter.

“It was kind of a perfect situation. Tom saw it coming with Bradley’s graduation. He thought it would be a good time for a new coach to come in,” Collver said.

“We have a lot of young kids coming up,” Collver added. “It’ll be a new system, but it won’t be something that’ll need to be engrained in them for four or five years. I’ll be able to mold them a little bit quicker.”

Nelson spent parts of three decades coaching the Bears, with his best years including a 1996 Section VI Class C runner-up finish and a 2001 Class C-1 championship.

While an elementary gym teacher in the Panama school district, Collver coached the Panthers varsity girls basketball team from 2007-14, picking up 61 wins in the process.

At the elementary school, Collver had girls like Brittany Lenart, Taylor Bowen, Nicole Johnson, Natalie Angeletti and Kylie Schnars in his gym classes, and helped instill a foundation for the program’s success in the past six years.

“It was such a benefit being in the school. At Panama, I had those girls with basketball in their hands all the time,” Collver said. “Being in the school, I could talk to them at lunch or see them in the hall. It’s such a benefit to continue building that relationship.”

During the 2017-18 boys basketball season, Collver filled an interim role at Maple Grove to finish the season and then coached the Red Dragons for the full 2018-19 season.

“It’s just a different fit. Coaching is coaching. Your job is to put the kids in the best position to be successful. It doesn’t matter if it’s boys or girls,” Collver said of the adjustment from girls to boys basketball. “As a boys coach, you can use the whole floor a little bit more. … With girls you have to be much more technical. Girls are more coachable. They listen.”

He spent last year as the JV girls coach at Frewsburg, assisting his brother, Jeff, the longtime varsity coach of the Bears. At the end of the season, Rob’s daughter Madi was called up to the varsity level for the playoffs and now her development will be left in the hands of her uncle.

“I have coached her for her entire career in Upwards and at the JV level other than my one year at Maple Grove,” Rob said. “Having Jeff be the varsity coach gives me a little more confidence in her development. You need to let your kids experience another coach once in a while.”

Now Rob Collver will face a new challenge of becoming a head coach during the summer of COVID-19 with in-person contact limited between himself and his players.

“It’s huge missing out on open gyms and not being able to get together with the boys,” Collver said. “Not even to talk about X’s and O’s, but just to get out there and play some 5-on-5 or 3-on-3. … Other than getting together and shooting at each other’s houses, that’s all they’ve been able to do.”

The Bears graduated five seniors this past season.

“We’ll have such a young team,” Collver said. “Discipline will be an important part of what we want to build as a program.”

He’ll have just one returning senior in Trayden Gray to go along with a junior, Zach Winters, and two sophomores, Zach Carr and Conner Murray, who have seen time at the varsity level.

“Connor and Zach are going to be huge because they know everybody. They play soccer with the boys,” Collver said. “Trayden and Zach Winters are really the only football players I have coming back. … Going from one sport to the next with the same coach can get annoying. With Connor and Zach they’ll be able to bridge that gap a little bit.

“Connor is all about basketball. He’ll be my go-to guy for team connectivity and stuff like that,” Collver added. “Trayden is our only senior. He’ll have to lead by example, verbally, making sure everybody is doing the right thing, showing up on time, all that stuff that a senior has to do.”

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