The Community R-VI boys basketball team had a difficult 4-21 campaign last season as several young players were thrusted into the lineup after several seniors graduated from a squad that had a lot of success.
With some players returning with experience in the lineup, a new head coach, and key newcomers, the Trojans are looking to move closer to their goals in 2016-2017.
Matt Thomas takes over the program after having past coaching stops in North Callaway, Steelville, and Palmyra.
When at Steelville, his team was also 4-21 before turning them into a 14-11 squad that won a conference title and advanced to the district title game.
“(Expectations are) just to get better,” Thomas said. “And being brand new, I’m asking them to do things they never have been asked to do. I’m asking them to play at a whole new level…Just getting better and competing night in and night out.”
This year’s team features two juniors and mostly underclassmen.
Key players include returners Cordell Hollensteiner, who is expected to be the team’s leader, and post player Matt Gastler. Other key contributors are Perry Combs, Klayton Bosworth, Adam Hombs and newcomers Caden Escamilla and Blaze Escamilla.
Offensively, the Trojans have started the season scoring 50+ points on back-to-back nights.
“We definitely want to get out and run a little bit more,” Thomas added. “I’d like to get the score up a little bit higher and play a little bit quicker, just attack, and beat the defense…We need to not turn the ball over and be able to take care of the ball.”
Defensively, Thomas said his team needs to get stops and get tougher in sliding over and taking charges. He would also like to see his players fight through screens and not let players get position on a cut.
A big change is going from the focus on zone defense in the past to a more aggressive defense this season.
“I like our kids; they’re good kids, and they work hard,” Thomas noted.