Second-year head coach Dusty Hatch said South Summit, a 2A semifinalist in 2011-12, will be as aggressive as it ever has before on both sides of the ball and plans to debut a fast-paced, open-court style of basketball, something he's preached to his players from the start of the practices last week.
"They're not liking their coaching staff right now because we've really conditioned them hard," he said. "It's different than what you've seen at South Summit for a lot of years. This is the style of basketball I really like. Last year, (our style) was something we felt like we had to do in order to be competitive. As a coaching staff, this is the style of basketball we like. I'm trying to reinforce that to my guys, I've been telling them, 'Once you get this system down and learn how to play, you'll love it.' I tell them this is how basketball is meant to be played."
Despite finishing the year 12-13 in 2011-12, the Wildcats dominated region play finishing with a record of 7-1 and steamrolled deep into the playoffs. This season, they'll be without big man Bonner Mitchell and guard Matt Rydalch.
But one thing the Wildcats won't be short on this year is talent. Of the 15 players on last year's varsity roster, 12 return for South Summit. Some notable returning players are forwards Beau Rydalch, Garrett Crystal, Porter Lewis, Porter Larsen and guards
Cole Richins, Brad Richins and Jay Reidhead.
Hatch said he expects his core group of forwards and guards to lead the way in its press-first defense/fast-break offense, and that starts with Beau Rydalch and Brad Richins. Rydalch, a 6-foot-5 junior small forward, has the ability to create mismatches like few other players in 2A basketball -- and that makes Hatch smile.
"He's the guy who's going to score because he can stretch the floor," Hatch said. "If they put a small (player) on him, we can run him inside. He is probably our best scoring threat. Sometimes, we have to try and rein him in because he knows he's our scoring threat."
Hatch said he's champing at the bit to get this season underway with the wealth of unique talent in 2012-13. Admitting the team doesn't have as much size as its had in past years, he said his best post player this year is Crystal, who is all of 5-foot-10.
But one hurdle South Summit faces early this season is the fact that many key players on the basketball team are also football players. Hatch said Reidhead has two broken fingers on his right hand, while Cole Richins (bruised meniscus in knee) and Porter Lewis (ankle) have been out or limited in the five practices the Wildcats have had leading up to Tuesday night's season opener at home against Merit Academy.
"I have high expectations," Hatch said. "I feel like there's a good continuity there with my guys. I feel like they're more of a team maybe more so than last year. If we don't win our region, I'll be disappointed."
He said that South Sevier, led by 2A star Race Parsons, is expected to be the frontrunner to defend its state title this year, but the field is crowded with Manti, Wasatch Academy and Emery seen as viable candidates to knock off the Rams.
"I feel like those are the four best teams in 2A," Hatch said. "Hopefully we'll be mentioned with that group."