Holton boys basketball team looking to make its mark
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: The Holton boys basketball team is under the gun with the start of the season rapidly approaching.
With the success of the football team, it has almost become de rigueur for the basketball squad to be playing catch-up in late November and early December.
That may be amplified this year with new head coach Ryan Noel taking over as well as the Wildcats losing one returning starter (Mason Barta) to season-ending surgery before the 2014-2015 campaign even begins on top of the large senior crop of players who graduated last spring from a state-qualifying team that finished 17-6 overall.
And yet, Noel said he has been pleased with the little bits he has seen of the full team in action, noting this is a persistent group that he feels will latch on to all that the new coach is trying to impart.
“I was thrilled about the level of hard work and intensity that they brought to practice,” Noel said. “The real work though is honestly yet to be done. We have to sustain that for weeks and months in order to get where we think we need to be.”
That starts at the top with yet another strong senior class, including four-year letter winners Garett Beecher and Trey Tanking, who bring a strong presence and a strong vision to the team.
“All of these seniors have been there. They’ve played a part in something special, especially last year when they were juniors. They were all contributors on some level, whether it be in practice or in games. I think that leadership is very important,” Noel said. “Their mission is they want to put Holton basketball on the map as a traditional powerhouse year in and year out that competes for a state title every year and has the ability to be there. I think that’s a great goal.”
Following a year in which the Wildcats got to the state tournament in the first year of Class 4A-DII, both coach and players know it will be no easy task getting back and establishing that tradition.
To reach those lofty goals, it will take time and Noel said his players will have to embrace the idea of daily improvement and that starts with the most basic principles.
“We feel like the important things are the little things and we have to teach them early so we can eliminate some of those errors as he season goes on,” Noel said.
Holton will also need to eliminate any injury issues to try and build the depth back up, which includes depth at the post due to Barta’s absence as well as creating more scorers to lighten the load players like Tanking and Beecher might feel as focal points of opposing defenses this season.
Noel said the team isn’t at a loss for players who are hungry to make an impact, so he hopes that will help in regards to building depth with competitive practices pushing the players to improve and showing the coaches who can contribute through the course of the season.
As far as what they need to do to contribute, Noel said there will certainly be a focus on defense and rebounding for the Wildcats this winter. Those are two areas Noel feels Holton can make up for some other inadequacies and a big focus so far in practice.
“We have to be better defensively and we have to rebound the ball. We don’t have a ton of size,” Noel said. “Those are two areas we spend a lot of time on every day and we’re going to hang our hat on the defensive side and on the rebounding side and try to create some buckets offensively by being really solid in those two areas.”
“I think they have the ability to be really special. I think from the defensive end, that’s where it all has to start. That’s going to create some opportunities for a lot of kids on the offensive end of the floor, “ Noel added.
Along with Noel, assistant coaches Matt Hundley and Don Brees have all been around these players in some sense. So while it might be their first year together leading this program, Noel said having those previous relationships has been beneficial in getting things set up.
Having players like Beecher and Tanking to lead the way is another benefit that has helped foster the competition in practice, while the Wildcats are also certain to see their fair share of it with another tough slate of Big Seven and non-league games, though Noel said the team will be all the better for it in the end.
“Ultimately, I think as the year progresses and as we get closer to the postseason, we should be a battle-tested team that’s seen a lot of different looks and I think we should be prepared come postseason,” Noel said.
While there are bound to be some variables over the course of the season (and in any season really), the Wildcats already have a few constants in place that should help in the experiment.
Is everything going to be in place by the first game, a tough showdown with Sabetha on Dec. 5? Noel couldn’t say for sure, but he did say the Wildcats will try to be as fundamentally sound as possible and work to get better every day as they try to build on the team’s tradition.
Returning starters/letter winners:
Garett Beecher, 6’, sr., guard: 17.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 2.1 apg
Trey Tanking, 6’ 1”, sr., guard: 15.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 3.8 apg
Nils Bergsten, 6’ 2”, sr., forward
Indie Allen, 5’ 11”, sr., forward