The Reed High football team makes it an annual habit to compete deep into the playoffs, which also means well beyond the start of basketball workouts. While the first date of official winter workouts began on Nov. 10, the Reed football team did not finish its season until this past weekend.
Fifth-year Reed coach Dustin Hall said that he expects five new faces for his varsity roster, and six new faces for his JV roster, will turn out for their first hoops practice Monday.
"Workouts have gone pretty well so far, but it's always a little different for us when our football team is still playing," Hall said. "Just for numbers, we combine our JV and varsity practices. The kids are working hard and getting better every day.
"The football guys will start practicing with us tomorrow (Monday) and be eligible to play after a week. It'll be nice to kind of get everybody back together and get our full team to start coming together and making progress."
Reed was set to open its new season Tuesday against Galena, but both schools agreed to re-schedule their game for later in the year so Reed could field all three levels: varsity, JV and freshmen. Per NIAA regulations, football players must have five practices in before they can play in a game, meaning Reed cannot field three full teams until, at the earliest, Saturday.
"We're just used to it," Hall said of the yearly struggles that come with sharing multi-sport athletes. "It's tough but we find a way to try and make it work. No one will feel sorry for us so we must make the best of the situation.
"Our kids have been in the gym working their butts off. With some kids missing, it's given other kids the chance to get in more reps. It could be a blessing in disguise at the end of the year."
Hall said there is one big basketball advantage in having athletes that compete for a highly successful football program.
"Those kids come in with a winning mentality, a willingness to compete and they're ready to go out there and play. The football kids carry that over every year," he said. "They're not afraid to mix it up and push people around. It never hurts having guys with a winning mentality coming back to the program."
Reed brings back eight players from last year's HDL runner-up squad that reached the North semifinals. Third-year varsity players Ty Shepard and Devin Gray headline that group after earning all-league honors a year ago. Gray, who is also an all-state caliber wide receiver for the RHS gridders, broke his collarbone two weeks ago and may not be back until January.
The rest of Reed's returning contingent is comprised of Dayraun Stamps, Ajay Bains, John Stacy, Juan Rodriguez, Trae Wells and Austin Corbett.
Once again, Hall said his team will not be blessed with much size. That leads Hall to stay with a full-court defensive approach aimed at creating defensive pressure and up-tempo games.
"Like almost every year, I think guard play will be a strength," Hall said. "We're not a really big team, probably one of the smallest teams in the league again. But we do have some experience and good leadership. Our ability to defend for 84 feet and get into an up-tempo game will be a strength for us."
Conversely, the Raiders' coach also knows a potential area of weakness, an area he knows his team had better make a priority.
"Always for us, that's rebounding," Hall said. "We go as far as our rebounding takes us. When we don't rebound the ball, we're not a very good team. But when we defend the ball and don't have to help, getting out of position, we're pretty good. If we're just taking the ball out of the net all night, it's tough to do the things we want to do. So rebounding and post defense are things we stress and work on."
How well Reed gels as a team and how well it survives December after getting a late start to work with a complete roster, will likely define how well the Raiders do this winter. That's no secret and Hall hopes his team finds some chemistry earlier rather than later.
"I hope we gel tomorrow, but realistically, it's going to take us a while," he said. "We're usually playing our best basketball by the end of January and I do like us peaking toward the end of the year. I hope we can survive December. The end of December is big for us. That's where we can practice for an extended stretch."