Eagle Valley cagers ready to hoop it up
GYPSUM – A successful basketball team needs more than just hustle. Eagle Valley boys basketball coach Pat Gabriel knows this, and preaches it to his players. “Our goals are teaching them how to make intelligent and successful decisions on the floor,” Gabriel said. “And if you are doing those things well, you’ll feel pretty good about how things end up.”Mix that with a load of senior leadership, and that’s the plan for this year’s Devils.”We’ll miss some of the seniors from last year, but we have great senior leadership this year from the kids who played on the football team who will carry that work ethic into our season.”Gone from last year are eight players, including four starters, and two all-league players in Cody Gerard and Kevin Cruz.But there are plenty of talented, athletic players who have already shown promise in the team’s first two games.John Gabriel, an all-league selection from last year, will be a key player on both sides of the ball for the Devils.”He’ll bring the ball up the court, and he’s a good handler and has good speed,” said Pat Gabriel of John.Along with Gabriel, Jacob Rivera started a good amount of games last year. David McMichael, Carlos Martinez and Cody Comerford are other seniors whom Pat Gabriel expects to make big contributions.Martinez, who was one of the leading scorers on the JV squad last year, is ready for the challenge.
“I’m excited to step up and take the role as a senior, and to see how good we can play against other teams,” Martinez said.And McMichael thinks the team’s athletic ability will go a long way.”I think we get overlooked a bit,” McMichael said, noting that most players can hop into any position on the court. “There’s a lot of diversity as far as positions go.”Fast and accurateThe Devils’ offense doesn’t have a traditional point guard, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have plenty of offensive options.Once John Gabriel brings the ball down the court, Matt Barker will likely run the offense from up top.At the post positions will be Rivera, McMichael or Gabriel. Mike Smith and Bear Barkman will be holding up the wing positions.Pat Gabriel expects Martinez and Comerford to play a good amount and make sizable contributions from up high.”Carlos is a good shooter and brings a ton of energy out there,” Gabriel said.Along with Martinez, John Gabriel can be a deep threat.
One of the keys to the offense will be taking quality shots from open positions.”We are looking to get the ball as open as we can,” Gabriel said.McMichael knows that off-ball speed will help run the offense.”Execution will be key,” McMichael said. “We’ll be holding the ball, and making sure (the pass) is open. We’ll be making muscle cuts, and wait till we have the chance to execute. Our offense will be in constant motion.”When the offense is not in motion, and at the foul line, Gabriel hopes the team will shoot with a high precision.”The team free throw percentage needs to be over 76 for us to be successful,” John Gabriel said.John Gabriel said that some of the younger players need to help spread out the scoring.”If we have multiple people over 10 points, we’ll win basketball games,” Gabriel said.Look for the speedy team to also earn points on transition plays.”Our athleticism helps on hustle plays and getting down the court on fast breaks,” Barkman said.
Defense”A lot of people think defense is just working really hard, but defense is intelligence, too, and positioning and timing,” Pat Gabriel said. “If your guy doesn’t have the ball, your goal is to keep him from getting the ball.”The Devils will mostly run a man-to-man defense, and look to prevent the other team from getting good looks.”We’ll play a tough man to man,” John Gabriel said. “We want to get a lot of steals and them to have more turnovers than us.”McMichael and Gabriel should collect their fair share of rebounds on the defensive side of the ball.For the first half of the season, the Devils will be without the services of Michael Medsker, Danner Bartlett and Jason Bair because of injuries. All three players will add size and power down low.”I’m sure the kind of kids they are, they’ll be working for that starting position,” Pat Gabriel said. “On the other hand, the kids who are playing right now will not give their spot up easily.”Regardless of who is healthy, a starting spot is no guarantee this year.”Like Coach said, you earn your starting spot in practice,” McMichael said. “You may have your game jersey one day, but the next day it could be someone else’s.”Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14631, or email@example.com.