Hayden basketball looks to reach new heights
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Hayden High School girls basketball coach Lori Raper has been waiting for her shot at a head coaching job.
“I am always assistant coaching,” Raper said. “I started having boys, and I was a stay-at-home mom for 10 years. I got back into teaching for these last few few years, because I was able. I always felt like family was important, so once they got to a certain age, I was like it’s time to go back and coach.”
Raper played college basketball at Colorado State University, then enjoyed five-year stints in Riverside, California, and Lewisville, Texas, as an assistant coach. The one time she did have a head coaching position was one year in California, when the head coach stepped down.
As a former Steamboat Springs High School assistant basketball coach, she saw herself taking over the Sailors’ program someday, but the opportunity in Hayden opened up this summer.
“I think it was a gift that the former coach left because she left me some solid players,” Raper said. “All the enthusiasm from the kids coming up is great, but I care about getting those kids to aspire to something more.”
For the last seven years, the Tigers have struggled to produce a winning season. Last year, their record was 6-15.
This year’s roster includes one senior, three juniors and eight underclassmen.
Raper believes it’s a sign the program needs to be reinvigorated from the ground up. She hopes to implement a mentorship program where varsity players take middle school players under their wings, and they attend their home games.
“I would never make cuts,” Raper said. “I would love to have a C team or a freshman team, but I would love to build the program where in five years, we’re just as good as Craig or Steamboat.”
But Raper still believes she has the talent on the court and coaching knowledge to lead the team to a winning season.
“I think we’re going to finish in the top three,” Raper said.
It’s that confidence that’s built trust in a team that has struggled to trust itself.
“We respect her really a lot,” junior Alex Camilletti said. “With that respect, it’s easier to do a lot more things.”
Paige Barnes, the only senior on the team, has been on varsity since her freshman year. Her younger sister Katerina Barnes joins the varsity squad this year. Paige is the main ballhandler, while sophomore Gracie Day will also get some time on the floor.
“I just really want to have fun this season,” Barnes said. “It’s not that I haven’t had fun in the past, but it’s my last year. I want to win more than I did last year and the year before that.”
According to Raper, the team’s fundamentals are sound. She just needs to teach them how to play good basketball: using good screens and pick and rolls and giving players a sense of court awareness, while amplifying each girl’s skill set, so the weight of the team’s success is not put on one or two top scorers.
The Tigers travel to Kiowa for their first tournament this weekend, and although Raper thinks she has her starting five, she’s looking to see who steps up.
Beyond that, she’s hoping it’s a promising start for the program she’s building.
“We’re not here just to take up space,” Raper said. “We’re hopefully going to turn some heads in the next few weeks, and my kids are going to work hard. They’re going to be diving for balls, taking charges.”
Mike Luppes is in his second year as head coach for the Hayden boys basketball team. He served as head coach from 2008 to 2014, retired and then came back last year.
Before his return, the Tigers hadn’t won a game in two years, and dating back to the 2014 season, Luppes’ last year, the Tigers averaged three to five wins.
Last year wasn’t much better. The Tigers only had two wins, but Luppes saw signs of improvement.
“My goal is to get a lot more than two wins,” Luppes said.
The start of this season has been “light years” better than last year, Luppes said. The boys are picking up where they left off, and the summer work in the gym is showing.
“We’re way ahead of where we were last year,” Luppes said. “Secondly, just our whole intensity is so much better than last year. We were weak defensively last year.”
The varsity team will suit nine players, including four seniors. According to the seniors, the piled-on losses have affected the team’s morale in years past.
“Instead of saying, ‘Oh, my god I suck,’ just get your teammates to find a good shot,” senior Patrick Hunter said. “And basically, just help them out when they’re down.”
Luppes sees Hunter as one of the best athletes on the team, a future first team all-conference player.
“He needs to keep his head up all the time,” Luppes said. “If his shots aren’t dropping, he can help us out all over the floor defensively.”
But the shooting comes with practice, and the Tigers needed a lot of it.
“We couldn’t make shots very well, but we were getting good looks and good shots,” Luppes said. “We’re shooting the ball better than we did last year, and I think the boys feel it. They know the improvement is happening. That’s a lot of summer work that will hopefully pay some dividends.”
The Tigers will join the girls at the Kiowa Tournament this weekend. Luppes hopes that fans will notice the improvement but also enjoy watching the product on the floor.
“I think they’re going to be a fun ball club to watch,” Luppes said. “They like to run the floor. So far, they’re showing they pass the ball well with a lot of good teamwork.”
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