December — 10, at Cheney; 13, Hutchinson Trinity at Cheney tournament; 14, vs. TBA at Cheney tournament; 20, Wellington.
January — 7, at Augusta; 10, at Circle; 14, Andale; 17, Clearwater; 21, at Rose Hill (G); 23-25, at El Dorado tournament (B); 30-Feb. 1, at El Dorado tournament (G); 31, at Rose Hill (B).
February — 4, Mulvane; 7, at Clearwater; 11, Maize South; 15, at Dodge City; 18, at Wellington; 21, Augusta; 25, Circle; 27, at Andale.
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Coach: Mitch Fiegel, 25th season
Last season: 15-8
Brodey Dick, 6-3, sr., G-F
Landon Root, 6-3, sr., F-C
Jack Copher, 6-2, jr., G-F
Cameron Christian, 6-2, so., G-F
Xzaviaer Adams, 5-10, so., G
Jack Larsen, 5-10, so., G
On the first day of practice, Fiegel informed his players that every time he and his assistants talk, they will be discussing, no, preaching, defense.
“But there’s a big difference between talking about it and embracing it,” he said. “It’s been a while in my mind since we have totally embraced defense. When you learn to embrace it, your offense takes care of itself because you are embracing the end of the court that is controllable.
“I’ve seen some signs from this group at the end of the summer that made me think we might be the real deal. There was a tenacity that’s been missing.”
The length of the Spartans is a defensive bonus. Root, Dick, Copher and Christian are all around 6-foot-3. Then there’s sophomores Austin Waddell (6-3) and Kendall Reed (6-2).
Larsen and Adams are only 5-10, but they’re quick and smart. Camron Chugg and Copher have been in the system the longest, so they understand the expectations the best.
Fiegel isn’t worried about the Spartans’ offense. They’ll play dribble-drive, spreading the floor to take advantage of the athleticism all through the lineup that has eight sophomores in the top 13.
As long as the defense does what Fiegel expects, the offense will take care of itself.
“When you embrace something, you become tenacious,” he said. “To me, that’s a difference. When something becomes your identity and you embrace it, you go to another level.”
The Spartans will also be helped by the health of Dick, who has battled injuries but had a strong second half of his junior season.
And they added Waddell, who had a solid football year after transferring from Rose Hill shortly before the season started. His brother, Bret, a senior, suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury during the football season.
Coach: Terrence Phox, eighth season
Last season: 4-17
Jordan Hull, 5-7, sr., G-F
Alex Payne, 5-8, so., G
Addison Root, 5-11, so., F
Nia Tolbert, 5-4, so., G
Bryanna Stocker, 5-6, so., G
Collegiate’s four-win season wasn’t as bad as it might seem. Really.
“At some point in time, you’re looking at box scores and you can think, ‘Golly, this is a rough year,’” Phox said. “But as the year progressed, Addison, Nia and Alex, all three of them got more comfortable wih the speed of the game, got more comfortable with the physicalness of the game.
“By the end of the year, they’d figured out what it takes to be a varsity basketball player. They can’t take plays off; one missed boxout or assignment can make a difference in a tight game.”
Phox broke the game and season into segments, focusing not on wins and losses, but on winning quarters and possessions. The goal was to prepare and develop the young players.
Now the trio of sophomores have that season of experience, and the hopes for the Spartans’ first winning season since they won the Class 3A title in 2010-11 appears in reach.
Hull (6 points, 3 rebounds) is the lone senior with starting experience, and can move through the lineup at guard or forward.
She will be able to go inside with Payne (7 points, 3 rebounds), while Root (8 points, 5 rebounds) who is a true forward at 5-foot-11 but is also athletic and versatile.
“We have three or four inside players who can play,” Phox said. “They’re not big, but they can play with their back to the basket. I think what we’re going to have to really rely on is our speed and our ability to create shots for each other.”
Payne, Tolbert and Stocker, also a sophomore, will provide major minutes at guard. They can score and have strong ballhandling skills, which are all important in the high-pressure defense that Phox intends to run.
Another key player Phox expects to make an early impact is freshman Jewell Bolden.
“We’ll have kids flying all over the floor,” Phox said. “We’ll have organized chaos, and 10 of us can play and they really enjoy this thing.”