New faces. That’s the story for the Lady Buckaroo basketball team this year, at least from the coaching standpoint.
Long time assistant, junior high and junior jazz coach, Kraig Black, takes over for the departed Ben Wolford, as the new head coach at MHS. Black is excited to take over the helm for the Buckaroos.
“I’ve thought about it for some time,” he related. “I thought at some point it may happen. But, I’m also a little bit nervous with the added responsibility.”
Black brings a long basketball pedigree to the job, having played for Monticello High a few years ago and having coached along with his kids, including former Buckaroo MVP Sheldon, since their early elementary days.
“My foundation goes back to Mark Hugentobler and Terry Eardley,” he explains, “my good high school coaches.”
Kraig also was an assistant to Tony Esplin and the boys team and assisted Wolford the past two years.
He is looking forward to the challenge with this year’s team.
“You have to figure out what motivates each girl,” he points out. “Mentally preparing the individual girls on what they need to be successful.”
Motivationally, he is also looking to his senior core group for leadership. No new faces there, with daughter Atlanta Black, Allie Maughan, and Isabell Slade all back for their fourth year of varsity play.
“This core group is very motivated,” says Black. “They don’t like to lose and that helps getting the team motivated. It’s not just coming from the coaches.”
Both Atlanta Black and Maughan are two-time returning all-staters, so the Bucks should do well.
“One thing that definitely gives us an advantage this year is our ball handling,” maintains Black (the coach).
“Allie and Atlanta are very solid ball handlers. In those close games when you’ve got people who can take care of the ball, it makes a huge difference. It will be one of our strengths and a great advantage in close games.”
Black says, “Allie put in a lot of time this summer, working on her shooting. Her confidence will bring an added scoring option. Last year, she was a little hesitant. This year the goal is to get her to shoot a lot.”
The Bucks don’t have a lot of height. Slade will be called on to play and defend the inside. And she will get help defensively from junior Alyssa Reeve and freshman Meagan Black, the two tallest players on the team.
Offensively, Coach Black hopes to get the ball to Slade in a pick and roll type set, with her catching the ball while moving to the basket.
That is the reason the Bucks will go to a 4-1 set on offense. Along with getting the ball to Slade in the best position, the 4-1 will allow for lots of opportunities for the ball handlers to drive off screens.
“If the defense collapses, then we can kick the ball out to the wings for shots,” hinted Black. “We should have more opportunities for the outside shot and more open looks.”
The Bucks look to have a more fast-paced game.
“We are definitely going to fast-break. We have experience, speed and ball handling,” observed Black, “and a little more depth. Some of the younger girls will be able to come in and give us some minutes.”
They’ll need it with plans to push the ball hard on fast breaks and pressure the ball as well.
“We won’t full court press a lot, mostly a 1-3-1 half court press and in our 3-2 zone defense we’ll trap on the wings and corners,” he continues. “With our speed and agility we’ll be able to disrupt a lot of other teams.”
The Bucks will miss the play of another two year starter, Mikayla Wolford, who moved with her family to Emery County.
Black is looking to junior Ashley Adair, who has played on the varsity level for two years, sophomore Tymbr Black, who gave the Bucks some scoring punch off the bench last year, Tristen Esplin, another sophomore with quickness, and fellow sophomores Davi Bowring, Journey Baird and Kylie Tracy to give the Bucks the depth they need.
Bowring is waiting to be cleared to play after a concussion suffered in the Homecoming Powder Puff football game, while both Baird and Tracy are coming back from knee injuries suffered last year.
They should be in the Buckaroo rotation by mid-year, if not sooner. Junior Shaylyn Hart will play for a month, but requires December surgery on the femur she broke last year and will be out the rest of the season.
Black will be assisted by Kate Motes. (“She is motivational, likes conditioning and likes to run,” says coach) and Sean Getter (“He’s defense minded. It’s how he played in high school and is his strength, plus his enthusiasm”).
The 2016 version of the Lady Buckaroos begins play on Friday November 18, with a trip to the 1A preview to play defending champ, Panguitch and Saturday games against Valley and Parowan.
Thet are on their way back to the semis and beyond, if you ask me. See you there!