Saturday marked the official start to the winter sports season as teams turned in their first practices. For many, it was as though there was no layoff at all.
“It feels like yesterday. It doesn’t even feel like we’ve been out of the gym all summer,” Reed girls basketball coach Sara Ramirez said. “You get back in there and it doesn’t feel like we took any time off. It’s way quicker than it seems. It’s fun though. This group of girls is awesome. They get after it. It’s fun to be at practice and see the team come together and grow.”
With a turnout of 43 girls, Ramirez said the Raiders got off to a good start on defending their Division I state championship from last season.
“We had a pretty good turnout of kids so I’m excited,” she said. “We have a few returners and younger girls that are coming up to fill the shoes that we lost last year. They look pretty good. They worked really hard. They look focused and ready to get after it, so I’m excited to see how this year plays out.”
A team that hopes to derail the Raiders on that mission is rival Spanish Springs. The Cougars, like many teams, used Day 1 to get back into the groove of basketball season.
“Everyone is always really excited on the first day,” Spanish Springs girls basketball coach Christine Eckles said. “You’re just trying to get some fundamental drills in and kind of getting everybody back with a ball in their hands. Everyone is real eager and ready to work hard. The kids come in out of shape, that’s no secret, so a big part of it is getting back in game shape. You’re trying to get everyone into playing shape and work the muscle memory as well.”
After getting knocked out in the first round of the playoffs last season, the Lady Cougs are excited to start anew this season.
“I’m very excited. I think we have a great group that is returning. We have a lot of seniors and we return nine players, so we're looking forward to it,” Eckles said. “It’s really a great group of kids for me to coach and we’re excited. I enjoy being around the kids on and off the court and they enjoy being around each other, so it’s fun to be there every day.”
While the girls were having fun, so were the boys as they returned to the hardwood.
“I’m really excited,” Sparks boys basketball coach Dan Schreiber said. “We had a really good summer. I’m really encouraged. We have a good chemistry of kids that work well together. They’re excited and I am excited and so is my coaching staff. We’re pretty happy right now.”
Part of the reason Schreiber was so enthused about the upcoming season was because of a turnout of 50 kids. That leaves the Railroaders with a problem they are happy to have.
“The first day was really just trying to sort out the pieces and establish a roster for each level,” he said. “The first couple of days are just basic fundamentals. We had a good turnout. We had a lot of kids playing fall sports, so that always helps. The kids aren’t coming straight off the couch, so they’re in condition and their bodies are kind of in tune with what’s going to happen. For those kids that we’re playing a fall sport, we’ve had open gym since September so those kids have a good idea of what is going on and what to expect. It was actually a pretty good first day.”
The two boys teams at the Division I level also went through the same procedures on their first day, with both thrilled to be back in the swing of things.
“The most important thing is just getting everyone together,” Reed boys basketball coach Dustin Hall said. “It’s hard in the offseason to get everyone together in the gym on the same night at the same time. Now you really get to see what you’re team is going to look like.”
Although Hall got a sneak peek of what components his team will consist of, he did not get the full picture because a handful of players are still playing outside on the gridiron for the Raiders football squad. It is a problem that could leave the Blue and Gold shorthanded for its first league battle.
“With varsity, the toughest part is getting them into basketball shape. Most of them haven’t touched a basketball for four or five months and we have just over two weeks until our first league game,” Hall said. “Their learning curve is going to be much harder as far as trying to get them all caught up with everyone else that is in the gym while they’re still on the football field.”
While the success of the RHS football season may initially slow the Raiders basketball squad, the accomplishments for the Spanish Springs gridders may benefit the Cougars basketball team.
“Obviously some kids have some rust, but it’s good rust in a way as well for those coming off of football,” Spanish Springs boys basketball coach Kyle Penney said. “We have to get some reps in and get the fundamentals down, but we don’t necessarily want to get rid of their football mentality. They had a lot of success with football and their confident in what they do. They’re aggressive and athletic and they have a good mindset already because of football. We actually probably want to steal from that as far as mindset and their confidence that they play with. We need that on the basketball court.
“I’m real excited. If you’re not excited, then you’re not coaching at this point. Especially with the turn of the weather, you kind of get the feel that you want to be inside the gym again. I’m absolutely excited to be back at it again. I love the group of kids that we have. There’s some things we need to get better at, but I’m excited with the group that we have.”