High School Sports

INDEPENDENT BOYS: New coach, system, starters

Twenty-nine years of coaching high school basketball has taught Robert Fields a thing or two about expectations. Like sometimes, you just need to throw them out the window.

"I think that there's a lot of unnecessary pressure that gets put on kids nowadays," said Fields, the first-year boys coach at Independent. "I think sometimes you just need to focus on having fun, and as a coach, make sure that you're there for the kids."

Fields, who lives in Winfield, took the job with the Panthers in August and will try to rebuild a team that went 7-14 overall and 4-10 in league play, finishing in the bottom half of the Central Plains League.

It's a job made more difficult because Independent returns no starters and Fields will be trying to implement a whole new system — offense, defense — everything is being overhauled.

"I don't think we're going to be very good at first, we'll probably struggle," Fields said. "But by the end of the season I think if we put in the work we'll have a chance to be pretty good."

Fields has three seniors to build his team around to start the season, including a pair of 6-foot-2 utility players in Jeb Park and Zac Neville, and 5-9 guard Conner Smith.

It's a daunting task for the first-year coach who has been trying to track down game video of his CPL opponents as the regular season closes in.

"I don't really know a lot about the league, but I'm trying to educate myself as fast as I can," said Fields, who has a career record of 204-282. "I'm very excited about this season because it's a chance to build something, it's a chance to have fun teaching a game that I love."