2023 Spanish Springs Cougars Boys Basketball Season Preview
By: J. Ray Dockter
2022 record: 19-8 overall, 14-2 league
Head coach: Kyle Penney, 17th season as head coach at Spanish Springs
Key Losses: Nate Penney, Conner Sheets, Aidan O'Neil, Bryce Eckles, and Isaiah Mezger.
Overview: The Cougars have been arguably the best boys basketball program over the last decade having won a regular season league title (shared and outright) for the last six consecutive years to go along with two regional championship victories and three additional appearances in the regional championship game.
Coach Penney and his staff have unlocked the key to maintaining that success even through a global pandemic and multiple challenges from the region's other teams. Dare I say "Are the Cougars no longer the hunters but the hunted?"
Regular success will paint a target on your back and the Cougars have maintained their resolve throughout the years by developing players within their program long before they ever step foot on a high school court. Many of the Cougars student-athletes understand what is expected of them long before they put 'Cougars' across their chest.
The Cougars will be in for a dogfight this season as they must replace not one but two 'Players of the Year' from last season. Coach Penney's son Nate, exhausted his eligibilty and is currently at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado playing next-level basketball for the Sky Hawks, he is a true student of the game and will be hard to replace.
The Cougars must also replace do-it-all combo guard Conner Sheets, who averaged 16.8 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 2.6 APG and 2.7 SPG as a sophomore last season and would have been the region's top returner had his family not relocated to Buchanan HS in Clovis, Calif. where he is currently averaging over 15 PPG for the undefeated Bears (who happen to be coached by former South Tahoe HC Tom Orlich).
Without further ado, here is Coach answers to our questions we asked him last month.
What can we expect from your team this season?
Offense - A balanced offensive attack that puts our players in the best possible opportunities to make plays that benefit the team, starting with transition and ending with execution. We take pride in our shot selection and taking care of the ball.
Defense - We are a man-based program based on team principles with five guys needing to work together as one, playing aggressive and tough. We stress and work on it as the staple of our program.
Style of Play - Tough and fundamental. We have standards of play and execution that we always expect of each other.
What is the key to your team's success this season?
Our discipline, toughness and buy-in to our culture and standards. We must have great discipline and toughness, mental and physical. We must have great defensive intensity and vision. We must take great shots, share the ball, force bad shots, take care of the ball and rebound. Simply put, we will emphasize making the "little things" the most important things.
What is the best part of coaching high school athletics?
Relationships built and sustained for a lifetime. The comradery displayed by the athletes and coaches. There are great, hardworking student-athletes, coaches and people throughout all Northern Nevada. Also, maybe even more so, the relationships that have been built from player to player and player to coach over the years growing up and playing each other.
Who do you feel are the team's to beat in the Northern 4A?
It will be a very competitive season with lots of great action and 4-5 teams battling to be at the top. But, on paper, at this moment, and listing teams not including mine, Damonte Ranch, Reno, Douglas, Bishop Manogue and Reed.
Projected Starting Five (Stats are reflective of last season): Seniors Cam Washington and Tate Hummel will be leading Juniors Travis Lee, Tanner Bowers, and Owen Hensley as our starting five this season.
12/14 at Carson
12/21 vs. Galena
1/4 vs. Bishop Manogue
1/6 at Douglas
1/9 vs. McQueen
1/12 vs. Reed
1/16 at Damonte Ranch
1/19 at Reno
1/23 vs. Carson
1/27 at Galena
1/30 at Bishop Manogue
2/6 at McQueen
2/9 at Reed