JHHS boys basketball team keeps success going in summer months
While the Jackson Heights boys basketball team entered the summer with a few holes to fill after the graduation of a small but crucial senior class, it was nothing compared to the rebuilding job that needed to be done prior to last season.
In addition, the Cobras were afforded the stability of not having to adapt to a new coach, as Chris Brown gets set for his second year at the helm of the JHHS boys team.
Being established and getting the chance to be more hands-on with his team in the summer is something that Brown said benefitted him and his players, and allowed him to tinker with the process a little bit and give his players almost a full second season through summer league play and camp experiences.
“Along those lines, that was just a great experience for both of us as we’re still getting used to each other, but definitely getting comfortable with each other also,” Brown said.
Jackson Heights may not have hosted a full team camp this summer, but Brown did have one for incoming freshmen and new players at the end of May to help them get a better understanding of what the team would be doing early before things kicked into high gear.
The young Cobras could get a base before having the opportunity, with the rest of the team, to practice two times a week while preparing for both summer league competition and some traveling camps Brown gave his players an opportunity to compete in this offseason.
With the double round-robin play of the Northeast Kansas League in the high school season and the local competition (Falls City, Sabetha, Hiawatha, Doniphan West, Troy, Axtell, Auburn, HTRS, Washington County, Marysville, Wetmore, Nemaha Central and Centralia) the team saw in the NEK summer league, Brown said competing in Emporia and Manhattan, if nothing else, would help broaden his players’ horizons.
“I really wanted to have us kind of expand our depths a little bit as to who we saw and the types of teams we saw and that ended up working out perfectly,” Brown said. “I couldn’t have been more happy with both of those experiences at Emporia and Kansas State.”
At the Kansas State team camp alone, Jackson Heights faced Chanute, Parsons, Bonner Springs, Kearney Catholic (Neb.), Van Farr (Mo.) and St. Pius X (Mo.) and went 2-4, though that record was deceiving considering none of the Cobras’ losses came by more than six points.
In addition to getting pushed by some new competition, that K-State camp in particular held the added advantage allowing the team to compete in Bramlage Coliseum, the host site of the Class 2A state basketball tournament. Brown noted he wanted his players to have that experience playing there in case the team finds itself making a return trip in 2016.
To do that, though, some players will have to adjust to new roles, like Westin Jacobsen at starting point guard following the graduation of Korby Strube and Zane Richter at post defender after the loss of Lane Slocum. So far, Brown said his players have been adjusting well.
“All of the guys getting their new roles and new duties down has been really important this summer and I really felt this last week we finally started gelling with our new roles in the offense and defense,” Brown said.
This last week, the JHHS varsity team rolled to four consecutive wins and a tournament title in the Northeast Kansas summer league, finishing with a 9-3 overall record. It was the culmination of a productive offseason and the championship game against Sabetha also happened to stress a key takeaway of the summer for the Cobras.
“I’m hoping we’ve kind of learned how to finish close games. We’ve played in a bunch of close games this summer and we lost some of them, but hopefully we’re starting to understand why we lost them and changes we can make when we get into the close games again,” Brown said. “I think we saw that in that championship game in Sabetha playing Sabetha.”
Against the Blue Jays, the Cobras held a big lead early, gave it up and then retook the lead, holding off Sabetha down the stretch with defense and strong free throw shooting. The team also beat Washington County, Nemaha Central and Wetmore in the season-ending tournament.
While there will now be some down time before the competition of the high school basketball season, Brown said his players can benefit from staying in the gym and continuing to shoot this summer, but he also believes just being competitive in the fall sports seasons (football and cross country) could fuel the Cobras even more heading into the winter.
Summer is a time for individual growth, Brown noted, whether it’s working on a new move or finding a new niche, but all that individual work helps the team, too, and he saw his team make a lot of progress and get a lot of good out of the offseason opportunities.
“I was just very happy. We played some really good teams and beat some really good teams. Like I said, we lost some games, but I felt like by the end of the summer we had learned from those experiences,” Brown said.
JHHS players who took part in the Northeast Kansas summer league included Westin Jacobsen, Wyatt Olberding, Zane Richter, Auston Sauvage, Adam Brey, Lane Holliday, Mason Thomas, Braden Dohl, Brady Holliday, Kaleb Keehn, Ethan Fund, Mason Hamilton, Levi Olberding, Lane Thomas and Kolby Rethman. The Cobras also had a freshman team competing in a league in Seneca over the summer.