KEEGAN SPURLIN • Sr/Center/6-1

As a new coach, Robert James said he is attempting to keep things simple with his team.

James, a Willow Springs graduate and longtime assistant coach at his alma mater, has emphasized playing hard and improving daily as the new leader of the Houston High School boys’ basketball program.

“The guys have been really receptive. They are a fun group to work with,” James said. “I’m trying not to overwhelm them. We’re trying to be basic and put them in spots where they can be successful. By no means am I in here trying to be complicated and fancy with schemes.”

James inherits a team that went 3-20 last year and has averaged 4.4 wins the past five seasons. But this year’s version is a veteran group with experience.

The 2015-’16 Tigers feature a roster of seven seniors and three returning starters. Senior guard Kobe Sutton was the team’s leading scorer last season, Keegan Spurlin is a two-year starter at center and Nathan Poynter is a four-year member of the varsity team.

Senior small forward Skylur Malam was also a part-time starter last season –– giving HHS four players who played significant varsity minutes last year.

Three more players –– Dylan Coulter, Caleb Adkison and Austin Schock –– complete the Tigers’ senior-laden team.

“I’m preaching to these seniors, ‘How do you want to go out?’” James said. “You need to go out as a team that’s tough to beat. Scrap and give it all you’ve got. I’ve seen teams with less talent do great things. I believe they have potential.”

Junior Lucas Kelley will start at point guard and be flanked by Sutton and Malam. Juniors Riley Cavaness, Trevor Motzkus and Taylor Ward as well as Coulter provide backcourt depth.

Spurlin, Adkison and Schock anchor the frontcourt. Poynter will play on both the perimeter and interior.

“We have four or five guys who can all put the ball in the basket if you put them in the right spot,” James said.

Houston opens its season Tuesday night against Cuba.

“This team’s goal should be what we’re doing in February,” James said. “I want to get better every practice so when we get to districts, we’re a scary team.”

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