Different, but the same

Shantz opens first practice as Mavs' head coach with similar system to Heaps

New Colorado Mesa men’s basketball coach Andy Shantz gives some instructions to Ryan Stephan on Tuesday, the first day of practice for the Mavs. Shantz, an assistant for the past 10 years, takes over as the head coach from Jim Heaps, who resigned in June.


“Coach Heaps can let us have it and be really intense. Coach Shantz can do that, too, but Coach Heaps’ intensity sometimes was tough, but I’m also going to miss it, too. It made practice interesting, that’s for sure.”

— junior guard Daniel Estes

“He would be that nice guy off the court, but he was very stern. It’s different, but at the same time it’s better for the group we have.” — senior guard Clay Kame on new coach Andy Shantz

Something was missing when the Colorado Mesa men’s basketball team began practice Tuesday for the 2013-14 season.

For the first time in 22 years, coach Jim Heaps wasn’t on the floor barking out instructions. He wasn’t peering down from a suite window.

Andy Shantz, Heaps’ assistant the past 10 years, took over the program after Heaps resigned in June to become an assistant athletic director at Mesa.

“It’s always a little different,” Shantz said. “I think our core beliefs are going to stay the same. Our tradition we’ve had for years and years, I don’t see that changing. As a head coach you have a couple different ideas of what you want to do.”

Heaps may not be the coach anymore, but he still makes time to visit Shantz and talk basketball.

“He comes in my office every day to make sure I have defensive drills on my practice plan, so I’ve got to make sure I’ve still got a lot of defensive drills in there, or he’ll give me crap for that,” Shantz said jokingly. “No. It’s just awesome to have him around. It’s nice to be able to bend his ear and talk Xs and Os. He’s a great resource to have and such a great supporter of our program.

“He can do anything he wants anytime he wants. He can come run drills this week if he wants. He’s more than welcome to be in this gym anytime he wants.”

Heaps played for Doug Schakel at then-Mesa State College and was a graduate assistant before returning in 1991 as Schakel’s assistant coach. Heaps took over the program in 1996 when Schakel retired.

Heaps was 281-162 in 17 seasons as the head coach.

Most of the players on this season’s team were born after Heaps returned to Mesa as an assistant coach.

Although Heaps isn’t running practice, it hasn’t changed much.

“There are a few things different here and there,” senior Clay Kame said. “As far as all the preparation so far, nothing has really changed. The big thing that changed is communication as a team. We’re talking more, being together more. That way Shantz knows what’s going on, we know what’s going on. It just makes everything easier.

“There is so much tradition passed down. From Schakel to Heaps to Shantz. That’s why much hasn’t changed.”

Junior guard Daniel Estes said the transition has been smooth.

“(Shantz) is definitely putting in a lot of his own stuff, but at the same time, we have the same goals as a program and the same philosophies,” Estes said. “We’re still bringing the same intensity. Coach Heaps was really intense, but Coach Shantz is intense, too. We’re real excited to get this season going.”

Estes and Kame are two of seven returning players for the Mavericks, which Shantz said will make the transition easier.

“I’m excited,” Shantz said. “I’m pretty lucky to have so may returners in the program, so I think the transition will go smoother than having to go to a different school. We have some great leadership and kids who have been around for several years, so they made that transition real easy for me.”

Shantz has three returning players who redshirted last year and seven new players who will compete for playing time.

Six of the seven new players are college transfers.

“The work ethic I’ve seen in the fall is really encouraging,” Shantz said. “They really enjoy being around each other. It’s a group that is extremely close already, so that’s encouraging.”

Mesa lost the Burgon brothers (Chandler and Colton) and Jeff Hart to graduation. Point guard Kevin Screen, forward Shawn King and forward Paul Walter didn’t return. Screen graduated early, Walter returned home, and King was asked not to return.

The Mavericks open the season Nov. 8 in the Dixie State (Utah) Classic. They host Montana-Western and CSU-Pueblo in the annual Holiday Inn-Crossroads Thanksgiving Classic, Nov. 29-Dec. 1.


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