Truckee basketball preview: Young boys team motivated to succeed | SierraSun.com

Truckee basketball preview: Young boys team motivated to succeed

Sylas Wright
Sierra Sun

Jen Schmidt/Sierra SunJunior Matt Mehan, shown pushing the ball up the court against Incline on Monday, is one of only three returning players for the Wolverines. With a new coach and limited height overall, Truckee will play a faster style of offense to take advantage of its speedy guards.

Players and coaches cannot avoid the word “young” when breaking down the 2008-’09 Wolverines.

“We’re definitely really young,” said Flynn Rice, one of only two returning seniors and three returning varsity players overall. “But everyone out here wants to be out here, and we’re all working hard, so I think we have the potential to go somewhere.”

The Wolverines ” with three seniors total, six juniors and three sophomores ” will take on the challenge of another season with a new head coach at the helm, as longtime assistant Mike Hoehn took over for Steve Ames.

With a new coach comes change. And with athletic, speedy young players and limited height, Hoehn changed up Truckee’s style to better fit its strengths.

“We’re really trying to step it up defensively. We want to create turnovers and constantly push the ball up the floor,” said Hoehn, who has yet to lock down a starting lineup after a 5-4 nonleague start.

Offensively, Hoehn likes his team to attack the basket before settling for outside shots. If a player gets cut off en route to the hoop, he is to kick it out to an open teammate. It’s fast-paced and fan-friendly, using four outside players ” with no true point guard ” and just one post player.

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“We don’t have a post-up game, so this is the best offensive system I can think of to utilize what we’ve got,” Hoehn said. “We’re working the guys pretty hard, too ” a lot harder than they’re used to.”

So far, the coach added, “we’re still trying to figure things out.”

Only Rice, senior Matt Hoehn and junior Matt Mehan return from last year’s team that played into the postseason. Each standing 6 foot 3 inches, Rice and Matt Hoehn lead the team in the height department, while the 5-foot-11 Mehan provides quickness and a sharp shooting touch from outside.

All three players are optimistic about what this year’s group can accomplish.

“This year’s team is working a lot harder than in past years, and I think that will reflect on how our season will be,” Matt Hoehn said. “Since we’re training so hard, we can run the floor and stay in games longer, and keep pressure on other teams.”

Rice said the biggest difference between a year ago and now is attitude ” “in a good way.”

“Last year we had a lot more one-man play; this year we’re more team-oriented,” Rice said. “We just try to get a win, no matter what it takes.”

Mehan, the only sophomore on varsity last year, agreed.

“The past couple years, basketball was just something to do in the winter,” he said. “But this year everyone wants to achieve the same goal, which is to win a state championship.”

Asked what the Wolverines need to pull off the ambitious feat, Mehan said, “A lot of dedication.”

While the young team and its new style remains a work in progress, coach Hoehn said he is pleased with his team’s improvement since Day 1 ” namely its free-throw shooting and ability to take care of the ball.

“We’ve been slowly but surely improving our free-throw percentage. I’m making them shoot a lot of free throws at practice,” he said.

Aside from the Wolverines’ speed and athleticism and motivation to succeed, the team’s camaraderie and selfless mindset may be its main strength, coach Hoehn said.

“The strength of the team is the team itself,” he said. “They’re playing unselfishly, which is great. It’s the type of play the offense demands ” to give up the basketball.”