Alan Batiste said the 2013-14 Durango High School boys basketball team could be his best yet in terms of offense.
If that’s true, and the defense carries over from last year, the Demons could be tougher to deal with.
Batiste, entering his fourth season as head coach at DHS, got a first look at this year’s squad in game action against Bayfield and Ignacio on Saturday at DHS. And, as with past Batiste squads, these Demons aren’t afraid to get out and push the tempo in transition.
But this year, with just about anyone on the roster at the very least serviceable at starting the transition off the dribble and a handful of capable shooters, a Durango team that did its best work in low-scoring affairs a season ago could have the potential to put more points on the board.
Obviously, there still are kinks to be worked out – DHS was a bit turnover prone at times against BHS and IHS on Saturday – but if the Demons cane limit the mistakes and hit their mid-range jumpers to go with the layups they hope to generate, they could be more of a pain for opposing defenses.
“This is probably the best group we’ve had offensively all-around in three years,” Batiste said. “But transition offense looked great (Saturday), like I expected. That’s the focus we’re having this year, pushing the basketball. ... We have the tools to do it this year consistently.”
Key cogs lost to graduation include forward Nick Hamlin and guards Ty Elliott and Willy Frownfelter. But 6-6 Trent Andrews returns to anchor the frontcourt, joined by returning forwards Caleb Kennedy and Isiah Mayberry and varsity newcomer Gabe Gilleland, who both seemingly are comfortable on the wing and in the paint.
Nate Atencio and Dane Mestas provide experience alongside fellow senior Trevor Bogus and skill on both ends of the floor in the backcourt, while sharpshooting sophomore Lucas Baken should provide a needed perimeter threat in the absence of Elliott. Add to that an intriguing set of varsity newcomers in the backcourt and, on paper, the Demons seem like the kind of team that can deliver on what Batiste expects.
And with only Andrews standing taller than 6-3, being able to sprint past teams becomes more important.
“In order to win, we’re going to have to run; we’re going to have to use our endurance and our small size to run people out of the gym,” Andrews said.
Andrews will be counted on to make strides as a senior as Durango’s traditional big man, scoring from the post and deterring drivers at the rim. After biding his time a bit behind Hamlin and previous DHS big man Morgan Miller, Andrews said he’s ready for his chance to shine.
“It’s about time I get my shot to be a senior and get my shot in the middle,” said Andrews, son of Alan and Nancy Andrews. “So I’m looking to dominate this year because I think I can against our league, and it’s finally just my turn. I’m ready.”
Batiste said Andrews is starting to realize just how tough he can be for opposing teams to deal with. And if he is and the guards and forwards deliver, Durango may have what it needs to improve on last year’s 17-7 record.
“Across the board, this year’s team is really deep. Any guy can have 20 (points) on any given night,” Batiste said.