The Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association, the state’s governing body for prep sports, mandates teams get in 10 practices before playing a game. Saturday was the first day Silver State schools could begin official winter practice.
At Reed, the Raiders’ girls basketball team was a state semifinalist last winter. The RHS crew opened practice for the 2011-12 season last weekend and coach Sara Schopper said it feels right to get her team back in the gym.
“I am excited,” she said. “To me it feels like we just ended last season. It doesn’t feel like nine months or whatever since we ended. We’ve got seven returners and they’ve stepped right back like we did just end. The last few days, they’ve been getting after it.”
Under the 10-practice rule, the first possible day teams can schedule a game is Nov. 25. That date is the Friday following the Thanksgiving holiday. Most local programs have opted to play in scrimmages that holiday weekend and wait until the following week to open the new campaign.
For instance, both the Reed girls basketball team and Spanish Springs boys teams are planning alumni games for Nov. 26 while the SSHS girls are hosting a scrimmage jamboree.
A new season brings optimism in most preseason camps. That is indeed the case in the Spanish Springs girls hoop team’s workouts. The SSHS girls program had 47 students-athletes try out for teams in recent days. That’s the program’s highest number in a few years as many schools across the North have seen dwindling girls basketball numbers.
“I was very pleased with our numbers,” said Spanish Springs veteran coach Christine Eckles. “It’s the most we’ve had in the past few years. That was an exciting thing to have a lot of girls out there excited to play basketball.
“I think we’re all real excited. We have a lot of returners so I feel like we have an opportunity to build on where we were a year ago. The girls are real excited and seem ready to go.”
Both Schopper and Eckles stressed that with league play starting so early under the Northern 4A’s current format, the first two weeks of practice are crucial to early success.
“Usually getting in shape is the main focus, but with playing on the 29th and the Thanksgiving holiday in there, you have to throw everything in,” Schopper said. “We have the seven returners but we’ve also got the other kids who have just moved up. They have to get on the same page. We have to learn to work together and learn new roles — all in two weeks.”
Eckles had similar sentiments.
“Because we start league games so soon, we have to get our stuff put in right away. There is not time to move slowly, but yet conditioning is a good part of it too. We’re not in very good shape right now. So we’ll have to do both of those things. We’ll need up-tempo practices while we’re teaching the game. There’s no time to slow down.”
On the boys’ basketball side, the student-athletes are just as amped up for a fresh start. Sparks High has a new coach in Dan Schreiber. The former Incline coach was named the new SHS coach last summer and could not be more ready to see a new season tip off.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “The kids are working hard. It’s great. We’re pretty much conditioning the first couple weeks but I also want the kids to understand my philosophy and what we’re trying to introduce. I think this is a great situation. We’re carrying 13 on varsity. We’ve got really good chemistry with the kids. They get along and work hard.”
At Spanish Springs, the boys hoops program had more than 70 kids tryout for the three teams, freshman, JV and varsity. That led to some tough choices for the Cougars’ coaching staff.
“It’s becoming very competitive, similar to the girls’ situation,” Cougars coach Kyle Penney said. “We had some really tough decisions on kids that we love and are committed. You hate to be in that situation but it’s also good for the state for our basketball program when things are that competitive. It’s a real competitive atmosphere.”
Basketball is not the only winter sport for Nevada’s high school athletes. Official practice for wrestling is also underway. At Spanish Springs, the Cougars have won three consecutive Northern 4A championships. You can bet Cougar wrestlers are anxious to throw their weight around again this winter.
“We only lost three seniors from a team that won a regional title,” SSHS coach Joe Imelli said. “We’ll have good numbers, good depth and good strength. Early on now, we just want to let the kids know the intensity of practices. If they’re going to quit, we want it to be this first week. So these first couple weeks, we’ll get in shape and get our hydration testing done so we know what weight classes these kids can settle into.”
League dual meets for Sparks schools Reed and Spanish Springs begin Dec. 14.