Monticello basketball preview part two

The 2020-21 Utah high school winter sports and activities season officially commenced on Tuesday, November 24 after being delayed several weeks by Governor Herbert’s COVID-19 mandates. Teams are now able to hold tryouts and practices.

However, starting November 30, all participants in school extracurricular activities – including students, coaches, and staff – will be tested for COVID-19 every other week.

If a participant tests positive, they must sit out all events related to those activities, including sports team practices, until they are finished quarantining.

The Bird Scoop asked new MHS boys basketball coach Josh Keyes and new MHS girls basketball coach Marcia Shumway some crystal-ball-type questions to get a feel of what we can expect this season.

Both coaches were gracious enough to answer our pesky questions about their teams and we thank them for their time and candor. This week we discuss the boys team and we’ll feature the girls next week.

Q: Understanding this is your first year coaching varsity, what is your coaching philosophy?

A: I have had the opportunity to work under some great head coaches during my time at MHS. I have assisted under Tony Esplin, Jason Torgerson, and Rhett Maughan. Each had their own unique style to the game and the kids.

I feel I’ve been able to adopt some of their style and will add it to my own. My philosophy will be based on being positive, competitive, and fundamentally sound, especially defensively.

We won’t have a deep bench and will always be short on numbers, especially in 2A, but a strong defensive team will compete night in and night out. My practices will be intense – a close simulation of game speed – with high expectations.

We will be aggressive on the offensive side of the floor. All the preparation and hard work isn’t effective unless players are allowed to play, make mistakes, grow, learn, and continue to progress.

I know we will miss shots and turn the ball over, but ultimately it will be about limiting mistakes and getting better. I believe in getting good help which I feel that I have done.

Coach Esplin is going to stay on this year and coach JV. I’ve picked up Ryan Young to help with the [C Team] and Doug Christiansen has agreed to stay on as an assistant.

Q: What will the style of play be for this team?

A: We will have a balanced approach. We will be able to pound the ball inside and slash from the perimeter. To be successful though, we will have to find a way to get stops on the defensive side of the ball.

Our approach will be creating offense with our defense. We need to force difficult shots, rebound, and get out and run.

We can’t have any success in transition if we don’t force turnovers or bad shots on defense. Our type of defense – zone or man – will be determined by the personnel on the floor for both teams.

Q: What is the experience level of this year’s team and is depth a concern?

A: We are returning quite a bit of experience. Cedar English, Devin Hatch, and Boston Freestone all played significant minutes last year. Freestone has a big job ahead replacing Dylan Bird at the point. He will need to control the tempo and not turn it over for us to be successful.

Depth is a huge concern. Sophomores Easton Young and Landon Ewart will be expected to produce off the bench, but neither have any experience yet. We have to stay out of foul trouble and keep our top six or seven players healthy.

Q: Who do you expect to be the key contributors on the team?

A: We will have a pretty balanced lineup this year. Hatch will be a force inside with Grant Nebeker and Cory Bunker. Freestone will handle the ball and be expected to shoot.

Joe Boyle, Ewart, and Young will also be looked upon to shoot. Young also has the ability to create off the dribble. English is our best all-around player.

He has the ability to shoot, slash, and post up with his back to the basket. He is athletic and can finish at the rim. English’s shooting has also improved from last season.

Q: What are the strengths of this team?

A: We have some experience returning. Hatch is going to be a force inside and Freestone and English have both improved their shooting. We have a strong starting five; that will be our strength.

Q: Which are the teams in 2A to watch and where does Monticello fit in that mix?

A: Beaver is going to be a force in 2A again. North Summit has size and North Sevier brings everyone back from a semifinal team a year ago.

Layton Christian always seems to have good kids and you never know what the other private schools are going to have enrolled year in and year out.

We will be the smallest basketball school in 2A which makes us the proverbial underdog going into the season, but basketball only requires five guys at a time. I guess we will just have to see what happens.

Due to the governor’s recent mandate and the inability of teams to prepare and practice, the Bucks’ December 1 home game with Grand County has been postponed and will hopefully be rescheduled.

Therefore, the Monticello boys basketball season will start on December 4 when they travel to Richfield to play the Kanab Cowboys in the Central Utah Preview. The following day, MHS will face the number-two-ranked Enterprise Wolves.

San Juan Record

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Monticello, UT 84535

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