HUDSON - Back in 2002, when Jason Vetter started interviewing for the Hudson High boys basketball coaching position, there wasn't much of a history of Cobras moving on to the next level. Things didn't get much easier for Vetter as his team was 11-91 in the first four years.
However, in the past few years, the Cobras have won a district title and made a couple postseason appearances. The reward for perservering is several basketball players have moved on to play college basketball. In fact, Vetter said 53 percent of the seniors in the past five years are playing college basketball compared to four players signing to play college ball in the school's first 30 years prior.
"My first few years I was just focused on being competitive," Vetter said. "I was brand new as a coach and it was as a new to me as it was for the players. Winning is not easy. The kids were willing to work and play a certain way. My first five and six seasons, my focus really was on just getting us into a winning attitude. We've spent our entire summers on individual player development.
That hard work began to pay off in 2009 when Cobras combo guard and all-time scoring leader (1,476 points) Jarrod Branco joined Division II Flagler College (St. Augustine) as a preferred walk-on. Branco became the trend-setter for Hudson boys basketball, as seven other seniors in the next four seasons would follow in his footsteps and ink a letter-of-intent to play at the next level. Former Hudson guard Chris Russo would be the next to follow as he signed with Ave Maria University, an NAIA school in Naples.
Branco's younger brother, Jamal, signed with Lander University (Greenwood, S.C.) and teammate Andrew DiSanto also moved on to Trinity Baptist College, a National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) school in Jacksonville. The latest players that have now moved on from Hudson's program are Bryce Durham and Zack Petersen, who signed with Doane College (Crete, Neb.) and Aurora University (Aurora, Ill.), respectively.
"Jarrod and Jamal going off to school was huge for our program," Vetter said. "We try to push these kids to get out of the area and go get an education and play basketball. Just that example of kids being able to get out of Hudson works wonders for the kids. There are opportunities out there for most kids if they want to play. The kids also realize they have to have good grades to play in college."
Hudson has come a long way from the days of annually being a doormat basketball program, with no sign of players advancing to colleges because of their academics and athletic skill set. Nowadays for Vetter, it's no longer wondering in what direction is his basketball team is heading in, its focusing on where his players will be ending up once their prep careers are complete.
Correspondent Andy Villamarzo can be reached at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @avillamarzo.