If the Houston High School boys basketball team is going to produce a second straight winning season, it will be done with contributions from a bunch of new players being guided by a new coach.
Last year under head coach Rod Gorman, the Tigers finished 13-12 overall and 3-4 in South Central Association play, and fell 65-58 to Liberty in the first round of the Class 3 District 4 tournament. The winning record was Houston’s first in more than a decade, but the squad lost nine players to graduation.
This season, Jim Moore will be the Tigers head coach after spending four years at the helm of the HHS girls program. Moore said he believes the team has what it takes to take things up another notch.
“I definitely think we have a lot of potential,” he said. “I feel like we’re fairly athletic and we have good size and decent speed at the guards. I think we’re pretty well balanced.”
Moore said the team will play with an up-tempo style.
“We’re going to push the ball,” he said, “and hopefully we’ll take care of the ball.”
Despite the drastic change on the roster, Moore thinks there are many players on his team who are capable of taking the reins.
“There have been a lot of guys waiting for their time, and now they’re going to get it,” he said, “The down side of that is they don’t have a lot of varsity experience and they haven’t really played with each other in what I would call ‘big minutes,’ so it’s a learning process for them.
“But there are definitely some guys who are ready for their shot.”
Senior forward Ty Franklin and junior post Korbyn Tune are the only two returning players who started games last season. Franklin is still recovering from a broken collar bone sustained while playing quarterback for Houston in a football game Oct. 2 at Ava, but there is hope he might be cleared to play in the near future.
Other players who could see significant playing time include seniors Jacob Moseley and Evan Fisher-Koch (who is out with an injury for about five weeks), juniors Tanner Lee, Hunter McKinney, PJ Mister and Josh Smith, and sophomores Garyn Hall, Dakota James and Harold Lassiter.
Also expected to make an immediate impact are a pair of athletic move-ins: Junior Noah Gulick and sophomore Brody McNew.
Moore said he hasn’t yet decided on who will be in the starting lineup, but about 10 players could be used with regularity.
“There are some guys who are competing for some big minutes,” he said. “It’s going to be interesting to see who steps up and who fits into what role.”
Moore said the Tigers’ offense has progressed a bit faster than the defense during preseason practice.
“Eventually you’re going to see us really get after it with full-court defense,” he said. “But that’s going to be a process and we’re working on it.”
Moore thinks one of the Tigers’ strengths will be post play.
“We should at least be able to establish a presence inside,” Moore said, “and if we do that, it will open things up for our guards and give them lots of space to work in and give us a pretty balanced attack.”
The Tigers boast numerous players who are at least 6-feet tall, including the 6-5, 220-pound Tune. Moore figures Tune could be on the cusp of a breakout season and be a formidable weapon on the inside.
“When he decides to impose his will, you’re not stopping him,” Moore said. “We want him to do that even more than he has, and he will. He’s a load down there whenever he gets the ball, and that sets up a lot of good things for his teammates.”
Due to the Tigers’ abundance of height, controlling the boards could also be a team strong point.
“We should rebound well – we have the size to do that,” Moore said. “It’s just a matter of going and getting the ball. We know we can do that, but knowing you can and doing it are two different things.”
Winning or losing in tough, meaningful situations could come down to defense and rebounding, Moore said.
“We know that if we’re going to be successful in big-time games, we have to be able guard people and rebound,” he said. “If we do those two things we’ll put ourselves in position to have a pretty big year.”
Moore is approaching the season from a win-now standpoint.
“My hopes and expectations are the same: We want to win,” he said. “We think we have the talent to do it; we may be flying under the radar with a lot of people in the community because they know we lost nine seniors, but there’s no reason why we can’t be extremely competitive. My goal is that we don’t just win the games we’re supposed to win, but we’re competing for championships, whether that’s in tournaments or conference or districts.”
In addition to winning now, Moore wants to build a community-wide mentality that makes winning the norm.
“We’ve got the change the culture and get it to where we expect to win instead of hope to win,” he said. “There’s a big difference. We’ve got to step on the floor and know that if we play the way we can that we’re the better team and we’re going to win. If you look at all the programs around the area that are so successful, that’s what they do. When they step on the floor, they know they’re going to win.”
The Tigers hosted a preseason game against Eminence on Tuesday of this week and will begin the season Monday (Nov. 23) with a home game against county rival Licking.
“I think people are going to see a lot of ability out on the floor and we’re looking forward to getting going,” Moore said.