‘Cats will make up for lack of size with speed
The first step in replacing nearly half the scoring from the previous season for the Fruita Monument High School boys basketball team is a fundamental shift in what was once a staple of Wildcat basketball.
Second-year coach Billy Dreher said losing Donny Thornhill and Spencer Fair to graduation means Fruita will have to share the load on offense.
Particularly with the absence of Fair, Dreher said the Wildcats will need to generate offense with speed and pushing the pace.
In other words, the Wildcats are going small.
Fruita’s tallest varsity starter is Matt Story, and the senior captain is listed at 6-foot-3. But instead of feeding him in the post, Dreher said Fruita will go 10 or 11 players deep and spread the floor.
“We have a lot of young guys that have grown and a lot of young guys that have experience from last year, where we lost all the talent off the really good team,” Dreher said, referencing the 2012 team that bowed out in the second round of the Class 5A playoffs.
“But we’re moving to an up-tempo system and we’re really going to push up the court and use a lot of guys. We’re going to try and cause havoc on both sides of the ball with speed and athleticism.”
The new, more free-wheeling style demands a level of chemistry that Story said is still developing.
Being able to pick out teammates on the run is a major change from making passes on set plays.
“We’re definitely building that chemistry and it’s coming together a lot faster than I thought it would,” Story said. “We still have room to grow, and that’s OK. It’s what we expect right now.”
The other senior captain is point guard Devin Winstanley, a darting distributer who can get up and down the court quickly.
On top of directing the offense, Winstanley will also head a new set of full-court zone presses to complement Fruita’s athleticism. Winstanley said he thinks the renewed focus on defense has helped the entire team get into better shape.
“We’ve been running a lot more in practice,” Winstanley said. “Not necessarily sprints, but just running a lot more and a lot faster in drills. I feel like our strength is our ability to run other teams out of the gym and cause turnovers on defense.”
Dreher said the Wildcats will “force the action” after a down year in the historically powerhouse Fruita program.
Coming off an 8-15 season and a finish at the bottom of the Southwestern League, Dreher said he’s seen players work to improve during the offseason.
Story echoed his coach, adding that losing only two players to graduation has allowed players to quickly pick up new offensive and defensive schemes quickly.
“We’re adding all kinds of presses we’re going to run this year that are going to be big for us creating turnovers,” Story said. “I feel like our young guys have adjusted well to that.”
They’ll have to adjust quickly, with some top-notch non-league games on their schedule. The Wildcats have tournament games that include Class 4A No. 1 Valor Christian and Class 5A No. 2 Overland.
With Overland, the Wildcats will have to slow down sophomore forward De’Ron Davis, Colorado’s top prospect, as well as a fourth-highest rated power forward nationally.