Hayden boys hoops still rebuilding, this time with new coach | CraigDailyPress.com

Hayden boys hoops still rebuilding, this time with new coach

Ben Ingersoll

Hayden High School senior Thomas Rauch is one of just two holdover starters from last season. With a new coach and a little experience, the Tigers are hoping to continue their rebuilding phase from their once-dominant years.

— Hayden High School boys basketball is in the second year of its rebuilding phase, and this winter, the Tigers will hope to move closer to championship form with patches of experience and a brand-new coach.

Two seasons ago, Hayden sported a wealth of talent, winning 21 games along with a perfect 12-0 conference record.

Then that talent all graduated at once, leaving last year’s coach, Mike Luppes, with a roster thin in numbers but still skilled in areas.

Now those skilled players — guys like Dan Engle, Greg Frentress and Isaac Bridges — are gone, leaving new coach Jody Harvey with a fresh lineup that he hopes will propel the Tigers to the next step of returning to dominance.

Harvey is as brand-new as it gets, a Texas native who moved away from home for the first time in his life this summer to Hayden.

"I was an assistant coach for 10 years," Harvey said. "We moved up here this summer and I knew I wanted to coach. I’m brand-new to Colorado, been in Texas my whole life. I hadn’t been out of Texas for longer than a week and a half."

Recommended Stories For You

As Harvey simply gets to know who is on his team, he’s also figuring out the product he’ll have on the floor in 2014-15.

Two senior starters return in Jack Redmond and Thomas Rauch. Carlos Valdez, another senior who almost certainly would have started all last season had he not torn his anterior cruciate ligament, is medically cleared to play after sitting out from football this fall, as well.

"Carlos can go, so we have some pieces and now it’s about getting it all to work together and be more cohesive with each other and not just scattered," Harvey said.

The group plays hard, that much Harvey has learned throughout the first few weeks of practice. Getting them to combine that with smart basketball, that’s the challenge at the forefront of their minds.

"They do play hard, I think," Harvey said. "That’s always a plus when you play hard. Now it’s about learning to play hard the right way. I always tell the kids we can run around here full speed and just get tired. We want to have a purpose to it."

On a personal level, the new coach is working on earning his players’ trust, hoping they buy into his philosophy. His program will be about building individuals, Harvey insisted, players who can be held responsible and are disciplined on and off the court.

"Through basketball, they learn those things," Harvey said. "That’s my main goal."

By season’s end last year, the Tigers had just five players remaining, three senior leaders plus Redmond and Rauch. Still, Hayden was able to win four of its last five games before being narrowly ousted from the 2A District 5 playoffs by Rangely, 37-36.

Harvey and company will be tested right away this season. The Tigers open the 2014-15 schedule at the Mountain Top Classic tournament at Adams State University against the likes of 4A Glenwood Springs, 3A Centauri and Ignacio, which placed third at last year’s 2A state championships.

If the Tigers can make it out of that stiff early season test injury free and become a more polished club, Harvey thinks they once again can make a late-season push.

"I’ll learn a lot about them right away," Harvey said. "We’re trying to get through that and get to people more our size. I really feel we will be able to compete and get to the playoffs."

To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll.