Walking into the gym to start the 2013 season gave Ignacio High School boys basketball coach Chris Valdez a bit of déjà vu.
Valdez essentially was looking at the same team that qualified for state last season and won 19 games.
“We only lost one varsity player from last year’s team,” Valdez said. “I come into the gym, and I say ‘I want to do this,’ and the kids run over there and do it. They do the things that I don’t remember.”
Ignacio’s entire starting lineup form last season remains intact.
Leading scorer Clayton Jefferson averaged 13.1 points per game last year, while Adison Jones brings back 6.5 rebounds per game.
Valdez made one adjustment: moving sophomore Wyatt Hayes to a point guard role he will share with Jefferson.
Hayes averaged 8.8 points and 3.8 assists per game last season.
“Wyatt is so fast and understands the game so well,” Valdez said. “When we get into running, he can make such good decisions.”
And Ignacio plans to run as often as it makes sense.
Then they’ll set up a half-court offense when it isn’t available.
“You want to keep pushing. Sometimes we have a problem slowing it down when we have the lead,” said Jones, son of Greg Jones and Latisha Taylor. “When we push it, we’re going to have more turnovers; that’s why we want to slow it down when we have the lead.”
That’s where the size of players like Nick Hererra and Kelton McCoy helps as far as establishing a post presence and rebounding.
The Bobcats are a large team for their division, according to Valdez, just not as big as they’ve grown accustomed to.
“This isn’t a huge team in terms of where we’ve been,” he said, referring to the massive starting lineup that made the state title game in 2009-10 behind the likes of Alex Hererra and the Brooks brothers – two of the three which now ply their trade at Fort Lewis College. “But we don’t notice that because we always want to play up and play bigger teams.”
The Bobcats did that again in a scrimmage with Bayfield High School and Durango High School on Saturday at DHS.
IHS ran its offense and didn’t back down to Durango’s defensive pressure or size advantage.
“We believe we can compete with any team,” said Jefferson, son of Robert and Tina Jefferson.
That confidence and level of play has Valdez thinking big for this season.
“This is one of the best teams I’ve ever coached,” he said. “We’re deep, we’re quick, and we have size enough to rebound against big teams.”