First-year Truckee boys basketball coach Sky Nelson, like every other Truckee coach in recent years, inherited an athletic group of players.
His challenge now — like every other Truckee coach in recent years — is to mold that athleticism into basketball acumen.
“We’ve got some athletic players,” said Nelson, a coach of 30 years who served as an assistant at Shasta College the past five seasons. “Our court management hasn’t been the best, but we’re working on that.
“Right now I’d say our biggest drawback is that when they get in certain situations that are stressful, they go back to what’s comfortable, and that’s going to take some time to develop that poise to finish basketball games. A lot of our guys also tend to play too fast. I’m trying to slow them down and realize that it’s all about timing; it’s not about frenetic action. So we’re working on that, too.”
Last year’s Wolverines played into the opening round of the Northern Division I-A postseason before falling to Lowry. They posted a final record of 9-14 overall and 4-8 in their mixed-division Mount Rose League.
Despite their final record, however, the Wolverines boasted a talent roster, with All-League seniors Adam Morgan, Graham Millie and David Burnham leading the way.
While the Wolverines lost their big three to graduation, they return plenty of talent in addition to gaining some promising up-and-comers from last year’s JV squad. So far, they’re off to a 2-4 start.
“The juniors who were on JV last year had a good season, and they’ve got a certain chemistry about them. I noticed that right away when I got them all on the court at the same time, so that’s something to look forward to,” Nelson said. “They seem to work well together.
“Our seniors are much more physical. They tend to go to their physical game.”
Returners include junior guard Nick Oberriter — the only All-League selection from last season, despite missing part of the season with injury — and seniors Sean Daniel and Ian Wilson. Nelson described Oberriter as a wiry and athletic guard who can play the point or wing. Daniel is a hard-nosed guard and Wilson a powerful, 6-4 forward with a penchant for pulling down rebounds. Wilson and Oberriter are co-captains.
Oberriter was Truckee’s point guard in the early season. But that’s soon to change, said Nelson, who recently called up sophomore Diego Abundiz from JV to handle the point, hoping to free up Oberriter. Nelson said Abundiz is the best pure shooter on the team and has great knowledge of the game.
Senior Louden Smith, who’s 6-4, provides size and skill in the post along with Wilson, giving the Wolverines a formidable 1-2 punch in the paint.
“Our inside game has not been bad with Ian Wilson and Louden,” Nelson said. “Louden came out two and a half weeks ago and is rounding into shape, and Ian is strong. He’s doing a great job on the backboard.”
Other impact players include juniors Cam Holobaugh, Teagan Pado, Chase Vankirk, Matt Bush and Ryan Schildge, as well as sophomore Jenner Tresan.
All have received significant playing time as Nelson continues to evaluate his talent to determine a consistent starting lineup.
“I’m just getting to know each guy and where they all fit,” he said. “It was a short period of time to get ready. And they’re learning a new system. But I’m pleased that they’re starting to understand the game, at least from my perspective.”
So far the Wolverines have relied on their inside game, points off of fast breaks and points off of their pick-and-roll offense, Nelson said, while their free-throw shooting and touch from behind the 3-point arc could use improvement.
“The kids are cooperating, and we’re just trying to get better,” the coach said.
As for the Wolverines’ competitive Northern Division I-A — in which Truckee is the smallest school, now with fewer than 600 students, Nelson said — Elko and Lowry should be major forces, as well as Fallon, Sparks, South Tahoe and Dayton. He said Elko and Lowry are among the top teams in the state, in all divisions.
“We are in a tough league,” Nelson said. “We’re at a disadvantage enrollment-wise. But that’s no excuse. We’re working on getting better. It’s a work in progress.”