Miners eager for more normal season after ‘tough’ last year
Park City is coming off a 6-15 campaign
Park City boys basketball coach Thomas Purcell is hoping for two things ahead of his third season on the sidelines: a more normal year after the coronavirus impacted last season and that Park City sheds its “soft” reputation.
“I would say COVID sucks, COVID is a bad, bad thing,” Purcell said. “We had a tough year last year. When the season was over, there was almost a feeling of relief as opposed to grief. There’s a feeling of ‘We made it.’”
But there’s still plenty of work to do when it comes to fixing that reputation of theirs.
“For Park City to be competitive, we’ve got to play harder than almost any team in the state,” Purcell said. “We have a reputation of being soft, and we have to shake that reputation.”
The Miners went 12-31 in Purcell’s first two seasons and haven’t finished with a winning record since the 2014-15 season, but they’re hoping for a much better year this season. Armed with plenty of experience — there are zero freshmen and sophomores on the team — Park City aims to be much more competitive. The Miners’ season will tip off on Nov. 23 against Rowland Hall-St. Marks.
“I think, as a group, we look pretty cohesive, I would say,” senior Luke Varechok said. “Compared to last year’s team, we didn’t really have that.”
The towering Varechok is hoping to be a significant contributor. And Purcell has high expectations for him.
“I think Luke Varechok has developed into a dominant post player, and that’s something we haven’t had since I’ve been here,” Purcell said. “He’s worked really hard, he’s gotten bigger, stronger, faster. He’s going to be very, very good inside.”
The Miners also return senior Cutter LaPine and Khai Lockwood from last year’s team. While Varechok will be Park City’s go-to man in the paint, the smaller LaPine is the Miners’ pure scorer at guard.
“Cutter is a very good point guard,” Purcell said. “He can really score the ball, sees the floor very well. He’s competitive, a good defender.”
LaPine has been playing with Varechok since they were in fourth grade together, and he sees how cohesive this team could be.
“We certainly have a group of guys who work well together and are good friends, and hopefully we’ll continue to work hard and get better as a team,” he said.
Like other Park City teams, the Miners have a new region in Region 6 that puts them much closer to their regional opponents. Gone are the lengthy trips to Utah County to face the likes of Provo, Spanish Fork and Maple Mountain, leaving much shorter trips to Salt Lake City for games against Skyline and Olympus.
“We’re in a new region this year, I think we’ll be very competitive,” Purcell said. “Last year’s region was a little tough, we had an hour to an hour-and-a-half bus ride to every game. Whereas this year, we’re in the Salt Lake region, so 30 minutes will be a long trip. So, definitely optimistic.”
Purcell said 91 students attended tryouts for the team. Though it made making cuts significantly more difficult, he said the enthusiasm is a good sign for the program. Recent seasons haven’t been kind to the Miners, but there’s hope that they can take a step forward this year.
“Definitely have to give it 110% out there and not back down, even if we’re losing,” LaPine said. “That’s a reputation you want to change. You want to be a team that people don’t want to play because you don’t back down.”
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