Brent Hall made it clear when he was approached about coaching the boys’ basketball team that he was a baseball coach first and foremost.
But after a few weeks of practice, his new hoops gig is beginning to feel pretty comfortable.
“I knew I’d do this,” said Hall, the school’s head baseball coach the past 10 years. “I’ve been thinking about baseball, but this is such a challenge for me and I want to make it work. All my focus has been on basketball. Once practice starts, time flies and I’m having a good time.”
Such a good time that Hall said his new coaching hat may become a permanent one. Hall, who accepted the position vacated by Wayne Jessen on an interim basis, has seen everything he wanted out of his team thus far.
Get kids out for the team. Check.
Earn their respect. Check.
Make a smooth transition as the program’s third coach in three years. Check.
“Who knows? I may do this for longer than one year,” Hall said. “Right now, I’d say I plan on sticking with it for awhile.”
Whether it’s a one-year ride or the beginning of a long tenure, Hall appears to have the right pieces to make the 2008-’09 campaign one of the best in recent memory for the Tigers.
Houston will start four seniors, including returning starters Ty Scheets and Ryan O’Neil, when it opens the season Tuesday against West Plains. Maybe the biggest piece of the puzzle is junior Kyle Poynter, a transfer from Lebanon who made a big splash in football and figures to have an even bigger impact on the hardwood.
The Tigers made major strides last season under Jessen, going 11-14 after a combined 14-35 mark the previous two years. Hall hopes to keep the momentum moving forward.
Any success will be a welcome sign for a program that hasn’t won a conference title since 1989. Houston’s last district title came in 1984.
Poynter will make an immediate impact for the Tigers, especially offensively. He had a season-high 26 points as a sophomore at Lebanon and scored 40 his freshman year for the JV. He led the team in blocks and was second in rebounding.
“He can do a little bit of everything – shoot the 3, post up, put it on the floor. He can do so many things,” Hall said. “By the end of the season, he’ll probably be one of the better players in the conference.”
Scheets returns at center as one of the team’s hardest workers and strongest players, Hall said. He’s flanked by Barker, who after a one-year hiatus returns to the team at forward.
O’Neil will start for the third straight year. He’ll be joined in the backcourt by David Weybright, who hasn’t played since his sophomore season. He beat Jesse Setters, who played significant minutes last year, for the starting role at point guard.
Ridge Miller, Tyler DeWitt and Cory Scheets provide backcourt depth off the bench. Justin Buchholz and Jake Scheets will play reserve roles in the frontcourt.
“I’ve been here 11 years and there’s hardly been a year that we’ve had all the athletes out for basketball. They’ve either concentrated on baseball or took time off after football or had to get a job,” Hall said. “We have most of the athletes out for the team this year.”
Hall said he prefers an uptempo style of play. But without a proven point guard, he’s willing to adjust. He gave the role to Weybright a few weeks into practice after Setters struggled with his ball handling. DeWitt could also share the duties, and Poynter is capable of helping bring the ball upcourt against pressure.
When he was hired, Hall said he’d be realistic with his expectations. He said he didn’t expect a conference or district title. But with Poynter’s arrival and an athletic, senior-laden team, Hall believes this team can compete in the postseason.
“My expectation is to have a winning season. I think we can compete for the SCA title and possibly win a district,” he said. “If everyone will accept their role and buy in to what we’re doing, we can end up doing something pretty special.”