That's bad news for Spanish Springs because the Cougars must open their 2012-13 season against the DHS hoopsters Tuesday night at 7 p.m. To make matters worse for Spanish Springs, the season opener is meaningful. It's a Division I North crossover league game.
With the Douglas game looming, the first two weeks of workouts have been quite spirited for the SSHS crew.
"Our first game is against Douglas in a league game, which is probably the best team on paper coming back," sixth-year Spanish Spanish coach Kyle Penney said. "We're trying to get a lot accomplished in these first two weeks. We're trying to get our basketball skills down, get our philosophy in and our foundation on how we do things. We have to have that for Game 1."
Practice for winter sports began on Nov. 10. The Division I Northern Region's master schedule calls for season openers on Tuesday. That leaves teams with just over two weeks to prepare for their winter debuts. It's not much time, but Penney has been pleased with his squad's effort and focus in the early going.
"We're excited," Penney said. "We've got a lot of fresh new faces to go with some returners. We're figuring it out. We've been bit by the injury bug and had some sickness so we've been practicing with seven or eight guys this week. But we're figuring it out and overcoming some adversity.
"Our practices are the most competitive they've been in a lot of years in terms of the kids getting after each other and competing for spots. The intensity as a unit has been a pleasure to see. As long as that continues, we'll continue to get better and that goes a lot to the kids being excited. We'll have to sustain that excitement for a long season."
Spanish Springs returns six players from last season's club that went 13-12 overall. Junior Kenny Meyer and seniors Austin Damoth, Connor Naisbitt, TJ Macauley, Zach Shaw and Austin McEwen make up that group.
The newcomers to the Cougars' roster are Michael Allen, Hunter Fralick, Hunter Pinto, Dupree Kness, Garrett Nauman and Jeff Jurgensmeier.
Penney has seen some intangible from his club in preseason camp that he thinks will turn into team strengths.
"I think we have better basketball IQ than some of our teams in the past," the coach said. "We have a chance to be a pretty smart basketball team. On some of our defensive concepts, we haven't spent a lot of time teaching guys where to be. They already have that from the time we've spent in the offseason and then in the JV program. We are ahead in some regards. We can do some more things naturally in terms of guys making plays."
While the Cougars coach likes his team's court awareness, he knows there are areas it must improve. One weakness was glaring a year ago and it needs to be shored up this season for the SSHS cagers to hit a higher ceiling.
So what is it?
"Handling pressure," Penney said. " The ability for us to handle pressure was a serious issue. Early in the season, it will be a concern as well. We must do a better job handling the ball, getting guys open and rebounding."
Penney doesn't believe leadership will be an issue. He said it comes in many shapes and sizes and he thinks his club has a variety of ways to find leadership.
"We've got some seniors, but leadership doesn't have to come from seniors," he said. "A lot of guys can be leaders and in a lot of different ways. Our football players coming in have a great foundation of success with good attitudes. Leadership can be dished around by a lot of guys. Some guys have better communication. Some guys dive on the ground,"
Spanish Springs has six league games on its schedule, roughly a third of its league slate completed, before it returns from Christmas break. The Cougars also have two non-league games and two tournaments in that stretch.
Penney stressed it's important to get as many of your schemes in as quickly as you can, but he also said the whole first month is a bit of a learning period.
"You'll get some early games in for tournaments, but the downfall is those are followed by league games," Penney said. So there is a short amount of time to practice. We'll get a decent amount of stuff in and then go to some adjustments and add a few new wrinkles over Christmas break. That's when we'll add some new things."