Attitude change for Bulldog basketball
By Ben Knoll
Signal Sports Writer
After a poor record and an exit in the second round of sub-state last year, the Baldwin High School Bulldog basketball program headed for a changing of the guard.
Players got an early look at exactly what has changed last week when they attended new head coach Heath Cooper's first summer basketball camp.
So how much has changed since last year? It wasn't long until the answer was clear.
"After the first day of camp we could tell that this year is going to be much different," said senior Austin Inzer. "The mood was more upbeat from the minute we stepped onto the court, and we ran up and down the court all day. It's a much more fun style of play."
This up-tempo style of play is part of Cooper's coaching philosophy. This season, there will be no walking the ball up the court and running through set offenses.
The Bulldogs will try to tire opposing teams with an unrelenting full-court press and a fast break offense.
This new style of play requires a higher level of fitness than was needed last year. Players took the first steps to reaching that fitness level on day one of camp.
"We run up and down the court from the second we start, and don't stop until the practice is over," said sophomore Adam Deer. "Some guys were getting sick because they weren't ready for it, but we're going to be in great shape for the season."
The new style of play is more than just running around, it's whole new way of thinking for a team that mostly ran a slow-tempo offense last year.
"It's definitely a change of mentality for the players this year," said Cooper. "We're trying to change mindsets in style, but also in terms of wanting to be the most in-shape and fastest team in the league."
Campers ran through many drills during the week, most of them using the length of the court so players could work on improving team speed.
During the last 30 minutes of each day, the camp participants split up into teams and played full-court scrimmages, which gave the players their first chance to try out the new style of play.
While watching the players sprint up and down the court, Cooper noticed something that surprised him.
"We have better athletes than I thought coming into camp and most people outside of the team think," Cooper said. "We have seven or eight guys that are good basketball players and athletes. We have much more talent than people may think."
Cooper went on to talk about some other good things he saw during the week of camp.
"The player's attitudes were great. All the guys worked very hard," Cooper said. "On the court, I noticed that we have a lot of speed and quickness. We don't have real tall guys, but we have guys with long arms, which fits our style well."
Assistant coach (Mike?) Everett also noticed many positives.
"The players all had great attitudes and were very coachable," said Everett. "They showed great effort throughout the camp, which should translate into improvement."
During the week of camp, players formed two separate groups, which arrived at the high school courts at different times.
The first group, consisting of the seniors and juniors, started play each morning at 7:15 a.m. The underclassmen made up the second group, which began action at 9:15 a.m.
Despite the early starting times, the coaches were satisfied with the player's attendance.
"I was extremely happy with the camp," Cooper said. "The numbers were great, much better than I thought they would be."
Though it appears the basketball camp went smoothly, it is only the first step towards success during the 2004-05 season.
Asked what is going to be the biggest differences between last year's season and this year's, Cooper answered quickly.
"A completely different mentality," Cooper said. "I don't know much about (former) coach (Jeff) Haas, but I know our styles or very different. We have a different approach. I expect us to get better every practice and every game. I expect us to never waste an opportunity to get better."
Campers cashed in on their first opportunity to get better last week. The players want to make sure their new style of play is more than just entertaining.
The players have a new mentality. And it's a winning mentality.