Experience – or lack thereof – stands to be a defining aspect of both the Houston High School boys and girls basketball teams in the upcoming season.
The Lady Tigers hosted a preseason jamboree on Tuesday of this week including Steelville and Plato, while the Tiger boys were left out of the event due to scheduling conflicts.
The HHS boys will play their first regular season game Monday (Nov. 25) at Licking, while the girls will get things rolling by hosting Couch on Tuesday, Dec. 3.
UPPERCLASSMEN ABOUND FOR BOYS
Now in his fourth year leading the HHS boys, head coach Rod Gorman will guide a varsity roster featuring a whopping nine seniors and only one underclassman. Every starting player returns for the Tigers and every point scored and rebound grabbed last season was by someone who’s still on the team.
“There are plenty of growing pains leading up to something like that,” Gorman said, “but we’re hoping to reap some rewards from having everyone back.”
The Tigers are looking to improve last year’s record of 8-19 overall and 1-6 in South Central Association play.
“We should be very competitive,” Gorman said. “We don’t think there are many teams on our schedule that we can’t compete with.”
Gorman hopes the Tigers will present opponents a challenge every time they have the ball.
“We want to be aggressive,” he said. “We have a lot of size and depth and we want to use that with aggressiveness.”
That depth comes from having lots of players who have been in the program for several years.
“We can put 11 out there,” Gorman said, “and they’re all going to contribute this year.”
Senior guard Clayton Moore led the Tigers in scoring last season with 16.7 points per game. Gorman said one of the Tigers’ strong points this season will be balance, with the scoring burden being more equally shared.
“That’s been a weakness of ours,” he said, “but I think it will be different this year. We have good guard play, size, length and experience, and we can shoot the basketball. But at the same time, I think we have to figure out what we do really well and let that be our staple, and we haven’t figured that out yet.”
With so many seniors, leadership will likely also be shared.
“And in this day and age, there just aren’t a ton of kids who are natural leaders,” Gorman said. “But I communicated with our nine seniors the other day and we talked about how they’re all going to go out in this world and be a leader at some point, and they’re all going to be a leader for us in some aspect this season. They’ve all identified a leadership role that they’re going to take on.”
The Tigers have 11 players listed at 6-foot or taller. Gorman said the starting lineup will probably resemble the five that started most games last season, with Moore and Kyler Ramsey at guard, and Dakota Burchett, Ty Franklin and Connor Wilson in the front court. Franklin is the only junior in the group.
“I don’t want to say it’s their jobs to lose,” Gorman said, “but somebody’s got to take it. And right now there are other guys trying to do that. It’s very competitive.”
Coming off the bench will be seniors Jaekan Moss (a starter at times last season), Dalton Dzurick, Sterling Jackson, Tristan Leier and Nick Zamarron, as well as junior Evan Fisher and sophomore Korbyn Tune.
Gorman said he feels good about his team going into the season.
“Houston deserves for these kids to have a good year,” he said, “and these kids deserve it, too. There are no guarantees, but we could do that. We know that at times it will be difficult, but things are set up for us to have a better year than we’ve had, and we look forward to it.”
A LADY TIGERS YOUTH MOVEMENT
The Lady Tigers’ roster is almost opposite of the boys, as not a single senior and only two juniors will wear Houston varsity uniforms to begin the campaign.
“We’re going to be young but scrappy,” said head coach Jim Moore, also in his fourth year with Houston. “I look for us to have some growing pains at times, but I also think we’re going to look very talented at times.”
The fact that the Lady Tigers are so slim in upperclassmen obviously means many sophomores and freshmen will be relied upon.
“They’re going to have to step in and play some big varsity minutes right off the bat,” Moore said. “Early on, it may take them a while to get acclimated to the faster, more physical style, but it will be good for the future.”
Moore said he sees eight to 10 girls who can contribute good minutes.
“I’m excited about that,” Moore said, “because for the first time since I’ve been here we’re actually going to attempt to play the up-tempo style of ball I really want to play. I like to really get after it full court, both offensively and defensively. Defensively, you’re going to see us pressure the ball a lot, and offensively we’re going to run it up and down the floor.
“We’re going to try to force turnovers and turn them into layups, but with that pace it takes several girls who can play, and I think we can do it.”
The good news is, Moore thinks the Lady Tigers’ personnel goes well with that plan.
“I think our overall athleticism and team quickness are our strong points,” he said, “and I think we’re going to shoot the ball better than we have in recent history. And our defense better be a strength, because being able to guard the ball and rebound the ball is the cornerstone of our program.”
Moore said he hasn’t yet identified a solid starting lineup, but junior guard Jaden Stell – an All-District selection last year – will be among the five, along with fellow junior Riley Scheets in the post.
The rest of Houston’s roster includes three sophomores (Hannah Dzurick, Jordan Lay and Sarah Purcell) and an amazing six freshmen (MacKenzie Bryan, Katie Jo Chipps, Olivia Crites, Karlee Curtis, Rhease Manier and Aliyah Walker). The team will be hoping to improve on last season’s records of 7-20 overall and 1-6 in the SCA.
“We have a group of girls who have really bought into what we’re doing and they’ve put the time in to get better,” Moore said. “I want to win now – we all do, but we have our eyes on a bright future and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens.”