New Cobra starters ready for their chance to shine
For the Jackson Heights boys, there may be some bonds even stronger than basketball holding the team together this season.
Richter, Olberding, Jacobsen, Thomas and Holliday; all of these are familiar names to fans and supporters of Cobra basketball. Now, it is time for some younger brothers to take their turns leading the basketball team and fill the shoes of their older siblings.
“It’s only a positive when you have competition like that at home, as long as there’s not too much pressure, which I don’t think there is,” head coach Chris Brown said. “I don’t think our kids feel pressure because I don’t think that our kids feel like they have to do it. They just want to.
“They don’t feel like they have to be as good as last year’s team, but they want to be as good as last year’s team, so that’s a positive thing,” Brown said.
Brown himself is filling in as well and taking over the head coaching position a year after the Cobras finished 18-5 and one win away from a spot in the Class 2A state tournament. It’s a tough act to follow to be sure, but Brown is ready and he is hoping his players are as well.
“We have some talented kids. We have some kids who can really play, who can really shoot it. They never really had a chance to do it in a meaningful varsity game and now it’s their turn and hopefully they’re excited for that,” Brown said.
Two players who have been there and done that are senior Korby Strube and junior Zane Richter, who are both entering their third season of contributing for the varsity squad. While Richter is one of those younger siblings, both he and Strube have been carving out their own niche over the past two seasons and are owning the leadership roles so far this winter, according to Brown.
“They’re doing a good job of always playing hard, making sure these guys know it’s different at the varsity level,” Brown said. “You have to play hard every possession. You can’t take any plays off and you have to be a lot tougher than maybe you did playing JV or C team ball like a lot of them did last year.”
Playing hard will especially be key on the defensive end, which is where the focus has been at the start of the season for the Cobras. While Brown is changing a few of the things that Jackson Heights has done in the past, he noted that “basketball’s basketball,” so a lot remains the same and this is a group with a high basketball IQ, so they are catching on to the changes rather quickly.
With as athletic as the Cobras are as well, that is a good sign as Brown noted he wants to be able to take advantage of that on the defensive end and apply some pressure to opponents.
“We have some very athletic kids who we want to get out and run and we want to get out and press and I think if we can grasp those two things, if we can be good in both areas in the half court and transition, then that’s going to be really good for us and that’s really what we’re focusing on right now,” Brown said.
In addition, Brown said he feels the Cobras have the potential to be a strong outside shooting team, but most of the players making up the varsity squad, including younger siblings like Wyatt Olberding and Westin Jacobsen, were JV players a season ago. Until those players get their first varsity action, he said that ability will remain a bit of a question mark.
“We have skilled guys, but they just haven’t done it and that’s always an unknown until it happens. Until they get thrown in the fire, you just don’t know how they’re going to react,” Brown said.
Make no mistake, Jackson Heights will be thrown into the fire early, too, as the Northeast Kansas League shifts to a full double round-robin schedule this winter.
Brown noted he feels the NEKL is a very competitive league with no easy games on the slate, so the Cobras have to bring their best every night. At the start of the season, JH might not be there, but Brown believes that double round-robin will serve the team well in that journey to reaching one of its biggest goals.
“Our main goal is that we want to come together as a team, hopefully sooner rather than later. It’s not going to happen right away, but we want to be comfortable with everything we’re doing certainly by postseason time,” Brown said.
After a late introduction in the summer, Brown feels the players still started to grasp a lot quickly and continue to do that early on this winter. The strides made from the first to second week are something the coach has been very pleased with and while he knows competition is a different beast, he and his players will still be setting their sights high this season and looking to have a little fun in the process.
“The fun part is not having those long practices and grinding every day,” Brown said. “The fun part is winning games, so at the end of the day we want to win as many games as possible but do it the right way and do it representing ourselves and our community the right way.”
Jackson Heights will get the season started with a home contest against Immaculata on Friday, Dec. 5. Games will start at 5 p.m.
Returning starters/letter winners:
Zane Richter, 6’ 1”, jr., guard/forward: 8.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg
Korby Strube, 5’ 8”, sr., guard: 2.5 ppg, 2.4 apg
Lane Slocum, 6’ 3”, sr., forward: 1.2 ppg, 1 rpg