For once the face on the sidelines is the same for the Houston boys’ basketball team. It is the faces on the court that are changing.
Unlike his three predecessors, coach Rob Coffey returns for a second season leading the program in 2014. He is the first Tigers’ coach to return for a second season since his new assistant coach, Brent Hall, did so in 2009.
But there will be plenty of changes to his roster.
Six of Houston’s 10 players are new to the team. Five move up from the junior varsity while another debuts for the program as a senior.
Although the team will have a new look – with four-year starters Devin Coulter and Aaron Cantrell gone – Coffey is encouraged by the Tigers’ deep roster.
“If I had to say what our identity is, we are a well-rounded team,” Coffey said.
Especially in the backcourt.
Senior Dylan Hooper, who joined the team at the semester break last year, will be one of the team’s main ballhandlers. He is joined in the backcourt by juniors Kobe Sutton, Skylur Malam and Dylan Coulter. Sophomore Lucas Kelley is also a candidate for playing time.
Junior Nathan Poynter, a three-year varsity member, can handle the ball or play in the post.
“We could have a different starting lineup every night depending on matchups,” Coffey said. “I feel like we’re deeper than we have been in awhile.”
The frontcourt is anchored by returning starters Kolby Walker and Keegan Spurlin. Senior Ty Wilkins, a newcomer to the team, and junior Caleb Adkison will back them up.
Unlike the past two seasons as Devin Coulter –– the program’s all-time leading scorer –– and Cantrell carried the Tigers offensively at times, Coffey said this year’s version will have to do it collectively.
“We could have a new leading scorer every night – and we have to,” he said. “We don’t have players like last year that could take over a game. These guys need to do it as a team. We’ll need to share the basketball and get everyone involved. I think they can do that.”
Size is a potential problem for the Tigers, whose starting post players are 6-foot-1. But they counter with what Coffey believes could be a deep bench.
Coffey wants his team to increase the tempo on both ends of the court this season as opposed to last year’s methodical approach with less depth.
“I’m trying to get these guys to play 100 percent when they are on the floor and get a break every few minutes instead of playing 80 percent for four quarters like they have in the past,” he said.
One advantage this year’s team has is a returning head coach. Walker, who has been in the program four years, won’t have a new head coach to start a season for the first time in his career. Nine of the 10 players were part of Coffey’s system on the varsity or JV level last season.
“They’re starting to see things the way I want them done,” he said.