It is easy to feel small when standing near the Sunrise Mountain boys’ basketball team. The Mustangs are tall and lanky at every position on the floor.
Coach Gary Rath said the 2019-20 squad will be the largest he has coached.
They are not just big, but experienced. Their top three scorers return from last season’s team that finished 15-13 and reached the play-in round of the 5A playoffs. Now, the goal, with another season and summer under their belts, is to make a stronger effort this season.
“We’re learning how to win. We lost a lot of close games last year that we thought we had chances to win and didn’t,” Rath said. “So, now our focus is putting it together in tight games, and we’ve been able to do some of that this summer.”
Senior Tanner Mayer, who led the team in scoring last year, said some of that success will come as a result of the length.
The Mustangs will be able to run different styles of defense. Quick on their feet, they can switch plays as they see necessary. In man defense, they can switch on screens, and not have to worry about total mismatches with guards and forwards manning up different positions. And in the zone every player can get a long arm in to deflect passes or create steals for turnovers.
“Any advantage we can get from being as lanky as we are, we’re going to try to use,” Mayer said.
In the June summer period, the Mustangs played with significant energy, getting into games with familiar rivals and new opponents just the same in a manner that might befit the regular season.
They worked on fundamental basketball, running basic plays to try and further team chemistry and familiarity. Rath, though, said once the players are comfortable, he can implement more strategy on the floor.
“There’s certainly stuff we’re going to be able to do in the regular season that we’re not now. I don’t want to give it all away,” he said.