Braves expecting to rely on defensive pressure, effort
First-year Bonner Springs High School boys basketball coach Ryan Hull thought he had it all figured out.
He had a projected starting five. He had identified an offense and a defense he wanted to run. Heck, he had even predicted his first team's final record by picking the schedule apart.
But then the season began and what once seemed like a season of things falling into place in a manner that was too good to be true turned into one in which Hull had to make adjustments.
First, tryouts were tougher than he envisioned. He even kept a player or two he didn't expect to suit up.
Then senior guard Matt Caquelin went to the hospital for an emergency appendectomy, a procedure that will keep one of the team's leading scorers in street clothes until January. Caquelin's bad luck made the absence of transfer Ariel Adger, ineligible until the second semester, sting more than Hull thought it would.
Before the third week of practices even began, Hull was facing an uphill climb more monstrous than the one he already knew he had.
But even with a season's worth of bad luck dumped in his lap before the team's opening game, Hull remained upbeat about his first season as the leader of the varsity squad.
The biggest reason for that is his attitude.
"What have we accomplished," Hull asked rhetorically. "I haven't won any games. These players haven't really accomplished much. We haven't done anything to think we don't have to work hard to get where we want to go."
Despite the setbacks, that destination hasn't changed. The road they take to get there, however, may offer a slightly different view.
Initially, Hull had designs on playing well at the team's home tournament and getting off to a fast start. Now, with his depth depleted, Hull's hoping for a modest start.
"If we're 3-3 going into the break, I'll be fine with that," he said. "I think it's important that we find our identity in the first few games. And, win or lose, as long as we have that to build on, we'll be in good shape."
Although the team lost all but one of its starters from a season ago, the Braves return several players with varsity experience. Along with Caquelin, senior Anthony Brown and junior LT Lee bring the most varsity minutes to the table and Hull said all three would be counted on heavily on the offensive end.
However, while he expects to play at a fast pace and hopes to take advantage of athleticism and mismatches on offense, Hull's primary focus will be defense.
"We're going to be leaning heavily on our guards," Hull said. "That's definitely a strength for us this year. But we're going to have to get a well-rounded effort from everybody every night if we want to win ballgames. I'm honestly more excited about what we can do on the defensive end because I think our defense is going to lead to a lot of easy opportunities on offense."
Like the BSHS teams of the recent past, Hull's squad plans to employ intense pressure defense, both on the ball and away from the ball, to suffocate its opponents and open up the floor for the Braves' high-flying athletes.
For the first time in school history, all five of Hull's projected starters can dunk the basketball. That doesn't necessarily mean that this team will be throwing lobs every time down the floor, but it does speak to the athletic ability his main contributors possess.
When Caquelin returns and Adger becomes eligible, the team will be deep in the backcourt. While those two are out, junior Chase McGhee will take on the role of floor general.
Beyond the backcourt, the Braves are not particularly deep. Post players Eddie McClain and Chris Callahan will be asked to handle the bulk of the inside scoring and rebounding and both are expected to bring a strong defensive presence to the post.
However, Hull's not asking those guys to provide the same kind of numbers inside that Nick White, Emmanuel McComb and Isaac Garlington did last season.
"Those guys have a void to fill, but I think they know that their role isn't to score 12 points and grab 12 points a game," Hull said.
Despite the highlight appeal that each of his varsity regulars has, this season -- and whether the Braves will be successful or not -- really hinges on two things.
The first thing is for players to know and carry out their roles. The second is for all of them to give maximum effort every night.
"We're going to have to give 100 percent effort at all times," Hull said. "There are going to be teams that are bigger than we are and there are going to be teams that are deeper than we are. But as long as we give that kind of effort, we'll be able to compete with anybody. We can't be perfect, but we have to strive to be."
The Braves will open the season at 7 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 1, at Lansing.
After that, they'll return home Thursday to play in the third annual Bonner Springs Metro Prep Tipoff Classic, which will run from Dec. 7-9.