“We’re in a good place”
by Than Acuff
While last year’s Crested Butte Titans boys basketball team suffered an early exit from the post-season, coach Brandin Hamilton found the year to be successful.
“Overall I was happy,” says Hamilton. “We had some big wins against teams we hadn’t beat in a while. It was a good competitive year and I was happy with the way they played it out.”
It just so happens last year was also the time Hamilton started implementing a shift with his offense and while there were some hiccups early, the move paid off in the long run and Hamilton looks to continue to build off of that this year. Although, he also admits, due to the loss of four key varsity players, it’s going to take a lot of work.
“I’m looking for new guys to step up and fill those roles,” says Hamilton.
The team got in some off-season work at three tournaments over the past summer and then officially opened the season on Friday, November 10 with their first team practice. So far things are looking pretty good for Hamilton and the team with 24 players showing up for workouts to start and all staying with the program through the first eight days of practices.
“This is the most players that I’ve had stick around and we will have a C team again this year,” says Hamilton. “There’s good energy and it’s super positive.”
The team got a boost in numbers from a large freshmen class coming in, but the squad is short on seniority, as Hamilton has just two seniors this year. Fortunately, both have varsity experience, especially senior Joseph Cummins, who enters his third year as the starting point guard.
“He’s like having another assistant coach out there on the floor,” says Hamilton.
A lot of the team’s success this season lies in the junior class. The numbers are strong and a handful of them are coming into the year with significant varsity experience from last season.
“The junior class is pretty strong and three of them are returning from the varsity last year,” says Hamilton. “So far they’ve been looking good.”
What the team may lack in seniority, Hamilton believes it more than makes up for in basketball sense.
“I think these guys have a pretty high basketball IQ,” says Hamilton. “I’ve never had a group able to stay organized in motion and these guys can do it.”
Hamilton looks to continue working on the offense he put in place last year with his team but has spent a lot of the pre-season on defense. The team lost some presence inside to graduation so Hamilton has been looking for a way to fill those gaps in the middle.
“Probably two-thirds of our practices have gone into defense,” says Hamilton. “This will be the second year with the offense we’ve been running and I want to add in another offense too.”
They got their first test on Saturday, November 18 when they headed down valley for some pre-season scrimmages with Gunnison. Ultimately Hamilton was happy with what he saw out of his team and felt the Titans matched up strong against Gunnison.
“I thought we executed really well for being this early in the season and we ran two defenses and were right where we need to be at this point,” says Hamilton. “We did some nice things offensively and didn’t really give up anything inside defensively and overall looked good.”
Hamilton has the team practicing three times over the Thanksgiving break and they will get one more week of practices before heading to the Lake County Invitational tournament December 1-2, a mainstay of the Titans seasonal preparations prior to league play.
“That’s going to be a tough tournament this year,” says Hamilton.
From there the focus for Hamilton is to get the team efficient with what they do know and then build on that base with the plan to peak at the end of the season.
“With the kind of team we have this year we’ll continue to build so we’re at our best at the end of the season,” explains Hamilton. “Have everything in place by January and then work on getting timing down and fine-tuning. I don’t have a bead on what’s totally going to work for us but we’ll see when we get into it. We’re in a good place now but I don’t know how far this group can go. It’s wide open.”