Iola focused on competing

“I think the confidence they have in playing with each other, their good chemistry, and the confidence from the success of last season — even though it took us a while to get there — will be critical to us getting off to a good start,” said Iola head coach Luke Bycroft.

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Sports

November 28, 2022 - 3:12 PM

The Iola High boys basketball team heads into the season with a solid core of returning Mustangs. 

The team lost only four seniors a year ago and now returns an athletic bunch of players who are ready to take on the challenge of representing their high school on the hardwood. 

Mustang head coach Luke Bycroft has made sure of that. 

High school winter sports practices began on Nov. 14 and Iola has been working toward being ready for their first regular season tip-off against Anderson County on Friday. The Mustangs will be a fast guard-oriented team with not too much size to them. 

“I have a bunch of younger kids that got a lot of experience last year,” said Bycroft. “Landon Weide started at point guard all last season for us, Mac Leonard got a lot of time, Gage Skahan got some time on the floor as did Eli Adams. Because I had a group of eight seniors last year, the competition was stiff for the underclassmen to get any playing time.”

Speed and quickness will certainly be Iola’s backbone this year. Also, their thorough knoweldge of the game will help them put the ball in the right spots on the floor. That familiarity begets smarter passing and shooting. 

Their only handicap is that the Mustangs lack size.

“We’re not very big,” said Bycroft. “We have a couple kids over six-feet tall but a bunch of them are six-foot and under. I’m excited about our style of play, it’ll be fast. I’m a little anxious about defense because we’ve got to keep the ball out of the lane.”

After watching the Iola football season come to an end before everyone wanted, Bycroft said he was anxious about the players losing their competitive edge and their willingness to compete. It’s an area he plans to address.  

In practice, the head coach likes to implement drills and situations that mimic competitive play. 

“We spend a lot of time in practice doing competitive things,” said Bycroft. “We talk about competing to win the next possession. It doesn’t matter if you’re up 20, down 20, all that matters is winning the next possession. We try to do competitive drills all the time.”

The team’s experience will be one of its strengths, lending it confidence and comfort on the court. The Mustangs are returning players who took on in major roles last season including their point guard Weide and leading steals per game player in Adams. 

“I think the confidence they have in playing with each other, their good chemistry, and the confidence from the success of last season — even though it took us a while to get there — will be critical to us getting off to a good start,” said Bycroft.

Iola is rebounding from a 6-15 regular season finish in which they also went 5-7 in Pioneer League play. The Mustangs will need to win some important games early in the season to work at earning a winning record and sniffing a league title. 

Bycroft believes his experienced team is capable of winning a lot of games but will leave it up to the team what he wants their ultimate goals to look like. The Mustang head coach knows how important the season tournaments will be for the overall mark at the end of the season. 

“I want to win both tournaments we play in — the early season tournament right after the season begins and we’re hosting the winter tournament,” said Bycroft. “I want to be in position to challenge for the league championship as we come down to the last couple weeks of the season. I’ll leave it up to them, but those are the things I have in mind.” 

The Mustangs tip off their season in the high school Gatorade Scrimmage on Tuesday at 5 p.m. before hosting Anderson County in the regular season opener at 4:30 p.m. 

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