A new look for Bulldogs
To say there's an air of change with the Baldwin High School basketball program this year would be an understatement.
It starts at the top and first-year head coach Jeff Haas. But, it also involves only one true returning starter from a year ago, although there are several part-time starters returning.
Still, Haas has much to look forward, thanks to a dedicated senior class that comprises most of his first-year team. He's looking forward to the challenge.
"It's an exciting time," said Haas, who came to Baldwin from a couple of stints as an assistant in Kansas City-area programs. "I'm real enthused about it.
"I don't know that we're ready to compete yet, but we've certainly taken strides," he said.
It will be a different Bulldog team this year. In the past several years, the emphasis has been on a pair of players to carry the team. That won't be the case this year. Senior guard Eric Black is the only true returning starter, although fellow senior post Eric Brown established himself as a starter midway through the season a year ago and sophomore Andrew Hannon drew several starts as well.
Two other seniors, post Hugh Murphy and guard Brett Myrick, and junior guard Joe Gipp also saw playing time last year. Added into that mix are a couple of other seniors and juniors that will see time and there's a basis for what will carry this year's crew a team.
"I think our team has good balance," said Haas. "I hope that pans out. I think the guys are coming together on the team concept.
"The makings are there, the components are there, it's just a matter of making it happen."
With the mix of starters, semi-starters and those with playing time, Haas isn't sure how to characterize the team.
"It's hard to call them a veteran team, although it seems like we're more experienced than we seem," he said. "We have a lot of people who have been in varsity situations."
What Haas is most thrilled about is his senior class. He's heard about what they bring to the table and he believes it now after watching them play for real for a few weeks.
"They have an attitude but not in the conventional way that term is used it's a great attitude," he said. "They have a great attitude about practice. It starts with our seniors. The younger kids are queuing off them. I know this and I don't take it for granted."
Of course with a new coach there is going to be a new look to the team. The offense has changed and also the philosophy.
"We're still looking at the mid-tempo game, trying to make the transition game work," he said. "We need to have a running phase in our game. We work on that in practice."
As for defense, it will be a mix of man-to-man and zone. Haas doesn't think there will be too much full-court press, either.
"I don't know that we'll do that, but we'll be ready for that," he said. "I know there are several teams in our league that use a press and I know we'll be ready for it."
As for the Frontier League, it's new to Haas for the most part. He's seen several teams in the past, but not the entire league by a long shot.
"I don't know as much as I'd like to about the league," he said. "But I think for a newcomer I have a decent grasp of what styles they use."
At a recent league meeting, Haas and the Bulldogs were picked by league coaches to finish fifth. Spring Hill was picked first, followed by Gardner, Paola and Eudora. Oddly enough, Haas will get to see those teams quickly in the Eudora tournament scheduled for Monday through Thursday of next week. Only Paola of those top five teams won't be in the tourney.
"I anticipate that's going to be an exciting tournament," Haas said.
But prior to that, BHS will kick off the season Friday at Osawatomie. Games start at 5 p.m. with the freshmen, followed by the junior varsity and the varsity sometime around 8 p.m. Haas isn't sure what to expect out of the Trojans.
"I know they have the same coach and I feel like I have a familiarity of what they like to do," he said.
What he'd like to do is use the rest of this week to get fully prepared for Osawatomie, the tournament and the rest of the season.
"I believe that we will be ready," said Haas. "We've got four practices left. We need to make the most of them. The No. 1 thing we need to work on is blocking out and rebounding. We'll get there."
The first home game for BHS will be Dec. 14 against Anderson County. Prior to that will be a Dec. 11 trip to Topeka Hayden, where former BHS coach Bobby Taul is now prowling the sidelines.