Entering the 2021-2022 season, Houston High School boys basketball head coach Jim Moore expects the Tigers to be an improved squad and potentially a force to reckon with.
“We expect to compete night in and night out and learn how to win close games at the end,” Moore said. “We expect to compete for championships in tournaments, be in the top three in the conference race, and have a chance to win a district title at the end of the year.”
Moore is now in his second year at the helm of the HHS boys program and has coached high school hoops for 23 years (including four leading the HHS girls squad).
Last year, the Tigers went 10-14 overall and 1-6 in South Central Association conference play. Their season concluded with a home loss to county rival Cabool in the first round of the Class 3 District 9 Tournament.
This year’s version of the team brings a significant level of experience to the floor, as the roster features eight seniors and five juniors.
“We have a lot of experience coming back,” Moore said. “It’s also year two for our players playing for me. That should go a long way toward better understanding what we are trying to do offensively, and definitely increased intensity and effort on the defensive side of the ball.”
The lengthy list of returning players who have been starters in the past includes 6-5, 240-pound senior center Korbyn Tune and 6-3 junior forward Brody McNew, both of whom were among the team’s leading scorers and rebounders last season. Also back is junior point guard Garyn Hall, senior forward Noah Gulick and senior guard Hunter McKinney. The Tigers have plenty of height, with seniors Tanner Lee, P.J. Mister and Josh Smith, junior Harold Lassiter and sophomore John Kimrey joining Tune and McNew in the club of 6-2-plus players with mobility. There’s also lots of speed and athleticism, with junior Dakota James and others ready to run, a pair of senior newcomers in Cooper Mills and Ebin Smith, and sophomore big man Brady Brookshire.
“Depth is a strength this year,” Moore said. “It allows us to play faster and more aggressive. I also believe one of our strengths is having several players that are capable of scoring. This makes us tougher to guard.”
Moore said the team has been highly focused on the scoring issue.
“We worked all offseason on doing just this,” he said. “We need to be able to execute and get good looks at the basket. When we share the ball and move it around, we tend to score a lot of points.”
But while scoring is obviously crucial in all levels of basketball, Moore has always had his teams prioritize two of the game’s other aspects.
“Defense and rebounds is where it’s at for us,” he said. “We have to buy in to these two concepts if we’re going to hit our team goals. I’ve already noticed a difference on the defensive side of the ball intensity-wise.
“If we can put pressure on the ball and limit opportunities, we’re going to be tough to beat.”
Moore said Lee, Gulick and McNew have been the Tigers’ most vocal players so far in preseason, and Smith has had some really good practices.
“We have a few kids starting to step up and lead,” Moore said, “but our whole team has had really good practices so far. I feel like there are several players who have elevated their games and I’m hoping it translates when the lights come on.”
The Tigers took part in a preseason jamboree on Tuesday of this week at Bunker, also featuring Belle and Salem. The squad’s first game is set for Monday (Nov. 22) at Licking, and the first home game will take place Tuesday against Cuba.