Tigers boys basketball optimistic going into 2019-20 season
HAYDEN — It’s no secret the Hayden High School boys basketball team is in a period of rebuilding.
The last winning season came in 2013, and in the six seasons since, the Tigers have won just 16 total games.
Last winter, Hayden jumped from two wins to six, and head coach Mike Luppes is hoping his team can build on that.
The Tigers have a solid starting five. Reese Kern is the team’s only senior and is an efficient outside shooter.
Liam Frentress and Hunter Slowik are both junior guards and showed off their skills in a preseason 58-53 loss to Soroco High School on Tuesday, Dec. 10. There’s also, junior Angel Valdez and junior, 6-foot-3 post player Andrew Kleckler.
“He has probably improved from last year more than any player I’ve ever coached,” Luppes said. “He still can keep improving, but he’s a night and day player, different than last year. It’s all because of his hard work he put in this summer.”
However, after those five, there’s a steep dropoff. With just three other juniors in Ty Blackwell, Fisher Preston and Keaton Knez coming off the bench, the Tigers don’t have much depth. Each player will have to spend a lot of time on the floor.
“By the end of the year, depth will not be a problem for us,” Luppes said.
Valdez said they’ve been working to build up endurance during practice, and come game time, he just has to hang in there and stay mentally strong, knowing he can’t come off the court just for a breather.
With all the good and the bad in mind, Valdez has a simple goal for his team: to work hard and have a winning season. Kern took that one step further.
“I’d say one of our goals as a team would be to make the playoffs,” Kern said. “I’d say that, last year, we could have been a playoff contender, we just weren’t there.”
In order to get there, Kern said his team has to play with more intensity on both sides of the ball and stay in the moment and focused on the next shot, the next play.
“Individually, I tend to get in my head a lot,” he admitted. “As a team, when we don’t execute, we tend to get down. We just need to keep our heads up.”
As the team’s only senior, Kern is the one the team looks to for leadership and guidance. He said he feels pressure in that situation though and hopes the team can work together to improve.
The Tigers saw their first action of the year at the Manila Tournament in Utah where they went 1-2. They opened the tournament with a 59-51 win over Dugway before dropping a game 88-32 to Intermountain Christian. They ended the weekend with a 65-35 loss to Manila.
“These guys play unselfishly,” said Luppes. “They pass the ball well, and sometimes, they do too much of that. We’ve got to get them to take the shots when they have them and knock them down. We’re gonna come along real well this year. I’m confident of that.”Hayden boys basketball schedule:
- Dec. 6-7: Hayden at Manila Tournament, W vs. Dugway 59-51, L vs. IMC 88-32, L vs. Manila 65-35
- Dec. 13-14: Hayden at Encampment Tournament, 1-2
- Dec. 17: North Park at Hayden, W 42-38
- Jan. 11: Rangely at Hayden, L 66-51
- Jan. 17: Paonia at Hayden, W 47-42
- Jan. 18: Hotchkiss at Hayden, 5:30 p.m.
- Jan. 23: Baggs at Hayden, 8:30 p.m.
- Jan. 24: Hayden at Soroco, 7 p.m.
- Jan. 25: Hayden at Plateau Valley, 4 p.m.
- Jan. 31: Vail Mountain at Hayden, 7 p.m.
- Feb. 1: Hayden at West Grand, 4 p.m.
- Feb. 7: Vail Christian at Hayden, 7:30 p.m.
- Feb. 14: Hayden at Caprock, 8:30 p.m.
- Feb. 15: De Beque at Hayden, 2:30 p.m.
- Feb. 21: Hayden at Meeker, 4 p.m.
- Feb. 24-25: District at higher seed
- Feb. 27-29: Districts at De Beque
- Mar. 6-7: Regionals
- Mar. 12-14: State
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