New day dawning for boys basketball
It’s Thursday night the weekly time for the Park City High School boys basketball team dinner and a curious conversation topic is circulating around the tables.
The 3A powerhouse Judge Memorial boys are coming up to Park City the next night and they are discussing how they are going to beat them. Yes, beat Judge. Not how they are going to hang close or avoid total embarrassment, but how they are going to win.
"Two weeks ago, if we had had Judge on the schedule, we would have talked about playing for pride and giving 110 percent and telling your kids you played against Jaxon Myaer," head coach Matt Nagel said. "We’re definitely reassessing. Our point is to beat them."
Make no mistake, physically, this is the same Park City team that lost mercilessly in their opening game to Logan 90-24. But mentally, that team is long gone. In its place is a team that knows their roles, sticks to basics and plays hard every game, says Nagel.
He should know, because the changes started taking place when he took over before the holidays and changed a team with one of the state’s worst records to a team that is already 2-1 in region play, after beating Uintah on Tuesday 55-49.
"In close games, its knowing you can win," senior Scott Case said.
That knowledge, Case said, has changed everything.
"When the coaches came in, no one believed in us and they told us to believe in ourselves," Case explained.
But it’s more than a positive attitude. Case said that practices are harder and more intense, which has made them one of the fittest teams in the league. They work on fundamentals every day and are coached to play to their strengths.
"Everything in practice is a lot more focused," Case said.
And that practice shows in games.
"You practice the way you play," junior Ryan Papez said. "Give them your all on one side and you’ll have the results on the other."
Another big step has been assigning each player a role and encouraging him to play to the best of his abilities in that role. Case says that has instilled more confidence and no one player tries to do too much.
Senior Alex Berry agrees.
"We have a lot of people who fit in certain roles," Berry said. "It’s more of a team effort."
Berry should know, since opening region play at Morgan, he has slowly become more of a shooter. After hitting a three-pointer in that game, the coaching staff encouraged him to take more outside shots. Against Uintah on Tuesday he hit three three-pointers.
Similarly, Papez has shown potential as a slasher all season, but it wasn’t until Nagel pulled him aside in the Morgan game and told him how much potential he had, that things really began to change.
"Since the Morgan game, he asked me to step up," Papez said.
That means cutting to the inside and taking the open shot or dishing the ball back out when he’s blocked. Either way, he’s creating a lot more shots for everybody and he has the stats to show it. He had 11 points, three blocked shots and three rebounds against Uintah.
"It’s really increased my confidence a lot that he wants me to put up shots," Papez said.
Nagel says the biggest key to the Miners’ turnaround is defense. Not known for their height or size, the Miners’ defense has been their best offense against taller teams thus far in region.
"Defense had been our main focus," Berry said.
In the Uintah game, Nagel said that coming out of each timeout, the team was spontaneously chanting "defense" and demanded to play a physical man-to-man style as much as possible.
"We definitely focus on defense," Papez said. "I think we can get more momentum knowing we can stop the ball."
Nagel has also preached ball control and rebounding since his first day on the job.
"I tell them that what makes the difference, is that every possession counts," Nagel said. "We are rebounding and controlling the ball."
Against Uintah, the Miners where faced with a pressing defense, but their newfound confidence allowed them to calmly go over and behind the press.
"We’re not afraid to push it," Nagel said. "I get nervous, but they aren’t nervous."
Instilling this attitude in his players has everyone wanting to play harder and play together, Nagel says.
"It’s total team effort," Nagel said. "Now we have threats."
Total team effort has also created team unity. Papez said that when the new staff came in, the team decided that if they didn’t come together then, it might never happen.
"I think the whole time, we’ve been a good team," Papez said. "We just hadn’t come together."
And the future is bright for the Miners. Long known as the underdogs, they are hoping to surprise a few teams.
"I think we have a really good opportunity, because I don’t think anyone is worried about us," Case said. "In the beginning of region play, we just wanted a win. Wins build and you feel you can beat anyone."
Papez goes so far as to call the new-look Miners a threat.
"People used to look at Park City as another ‘W,’" Papez said. "Now they have to prepare for us."
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