So how does Spanish Springs make up for the loss in production as it gears up for a new season and tonight’s 7:30 p.m. opener against Los Banos, Calif.?
“We make up for that with the infrastructure of building a program, our offseason work, player development and the fact that we are going to have accountability and demand hard work,” third-year Cougars coach Kyle Penney said. “We have eight seniors. It is their time. We have the makings of a program. We lost some key seniors last year. It is now time for this year’s seniors. It will be the same for next year.”
A year ago, with a veteran group of players returning, Penney opted to tip off his season with a game on Thanksgiving weekend. This time around, the Cougars are waiting an extra week to make their debut. Penney said that’s not a direct correlation to having a less-experienced team, but he also don’t mind having more practice time. So will Spanish Springs be ready for its season opener?
“It really depends on the day you ask the question,” Penney said. “We are on a fun and sometimes really scary roller roaster right now. I am anxious for an actual live/real game so I can see if the kids are listening and buying in, to see if they want to stay on the court and compete the way we ask them to.”
Spanish Springs is expected to be led by a trio of senior guards who played key roles last winter. Thomas Perkins is the lone starter back off last season’s squad. Penney said Perkins needs to be a leader as well as seniors Bryan Wilson and Kyle Raymond, who were pivotal reserves on the 2008-09 club.
The Cougars also boast seven newcomers to this year’s team.
“We will need them all at some point,” Penney said. “I think Alex Vetter (senior) can be a real big piece for us. He is another big with a pretty good feel after not playing for a couple years. He has good touch and play-making ability. Brandon Delong (sophomore) has a very nice game and feel in a lot of areas and we can move him around a little, but also our junior guards will have to give solid minutes if we are to be successful.”
After hosting Los Banos tonight, Spanish Springs will host two more California schools: Merced and Escalon on Friday and Saturday respectively. The Cougars then get back to practice before competing in the Elko tournament next weekend. Spanish Springs will also play in preseason tournaments in suburban Sacramento and San Diego later this month.
On the whole, Penney likes his non-league schedule.
“Would I like to change a few games? Absolutely,” he said. “But I am confident in our non-league schedule. I want to expose the kids to tough teams so we can see where we need to improve. I also want to expose our kids to different styles of play. We have that in our schedule and that is something we will do every year.”
The Cougars coach believes guard play should be his team’s strength, but he knows there are plenty of areas to improve.
“My biggest area of concern is that we are going to have to show up and compete, first,” he said. “All schemes aside, our kids have to have the right mental attitude and they have to come to compete.
“Are they going to do the simple fundamental things that should be habit? When we get to the point that we do these things by habit and we do them all the time, no matter what, our kids will be and will become better basketball players, resulting in us being a better team.”
Spanish Springs did not qualify for postseason play through the first six seasons of its program’s existence. It has now done that in each of the past two years and Penney believes it is not a thing to take lightly.
“Absolutely, that is our goal every year, to make the playoffs,” he said. “And not only is it a goal, but an expectation. That is why we put in the time and hours that we do. And that is why we demand and expect our kids to give us their best every day. That is what I promise them from me.”