Everybody on the Fort Lewis College mens basketball team has a role.
FLC head coach Bob Hofman routinely pounds into his players his mantra that no role is more important than any other.
The average fan likely will look at the roles played by scorers like DeAndre Lansdowne, David Kanyinda and Daniel Steffensen or bangers like Kyle Behrens and Matt Morris and perhaps mutter an unbelieving, Yeah, right.
But to take a closer look at it means recognizing Hofmans liberal substitution policy wouldnt work without every cog fitting perfectly into the wheel.
And while players such as Tayler Faust, Connor Drumm, Matthias Weissl, Mike Matthews and Barron Boedecker go into any given game not sure exactly how many minutes theyll play, they know what they have to deliver to keep getting those minutes.
That might be the perfect storm for brewing an intense fear of failure, but Faust said that mindset cant be allowed to creep in for players expected to maximize their frequent cameo appearances.
To be successful, you cant think like that, he said. Youve got to just think about what you have and try to make the most of it. ... The thing is, if you play hard and do your thing, youll be happy with yourself.
For Faust, whose older brother Jason played before him at FLC, the name of the game is defense and intensity. Standing 5-8 in a world where even the point guards typically top 6 feet, the fifth-year senior has to get creative at times to make up the difference. Fortunately for Faust, whos appeared in all 22 games this season, hes figured out the secret to using his stature to his advantage.
Ill give you the secret, the short-guys secret: A lot of referees wont call ticky-tack fouls on small guys. ... So I do get away with some grabbing or whatever you call it, Faust said. But youve got to be smart with your hands.
Hofman consistently has lauded Faust after games for his contributions on the defensive end. But after Wednesdays practice, the longtime FLC bench boss was enamored more with his mental approach, likely a big reason why the seniors seen more minutes.
And, as Hofman pointed out, attitude is everything.
Sometimes if you look like a stopper, you are a stopper. ... My description for him is unflappable. No matter what happens in the game, hes unflappable, he said.
Drumms contributions lie more in doing the dirty work in the post and on the wing. The senior, who came to Fort Lewis after a redshirt season at the University of Tampa, manifested his scrappy ethos in last Saturdays game against UC-Colorado Springs. He scored nine points, got to the free-throw line six times and even managed to rile UCCSs Tanner Adams to the point where Adams took a swipe at him and earned an ejection in the first half.
The biggest thing is just to pay attention and know the flow of the game who youre probably going to go in for and who youre guarding, Drumm said.
Hofman, who always appears to enjoy the opportunity to gush about his senior class, couldnt remember one of FLCs 17 victories in which his two senior role players hadnt made a positive impact.
I cant remember any games weve won this year that ... our longest tenured players havent changed the outcome of the game for the better, Hofman said.
As for the rest of the corps of role players, their objectives are every bit as defined:
b Guys like Josh Cassaday and Torrey Udall are expected to keep the intensity high in the paint and be forceful on the glass.
b Weissl is expected to bring strong on-ball defense and be a threat from beyond the arc, with on-ball defense being a strength of Matthews as well.
b And Boedecker, the son of assistant coach George Boedecker, is called upon to bring energy and disruptive length when he hits the floor.
But for all of them, defense is key. Hofman tries to instill a defense-first ethos into almost all of his squads. But most importantly, Hofman wants to ensure that his players, starter or reserve, dont stay at the same level from game to game, practice to practice. With such a crowded lineup, his players know they cant afford a day off.
We have a term we call The Hofman Graph, where you never stay the same you get better, you get worse, Hofman said. And we want the graph, so we want it to start here, and by March be (much higher).