Panthers look to restore past glory

First-year head coach Dusty DeBoer hopes that up-tempo system leads to wins

Austin Bayles joins new head coach Dusty DeBoer in directing a drill at the Montezuma-Cortez High School basketball practice. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

Austin Bayles joins new head coach Dusty DeBoer in directing a drill at the Montezuma-Cortez High School basketball practice.

The 2002 state championship banner still hangs in Ron Wright Memorial Gym, serving as a reminder of the Montezuma-Cortez High School Panthers basketball program’s glorious past.

Looking to restore some of that glory, the Panthers enter the 2013-14 season hoping that a new coach, two talented seniors and a group of promising underclassmen come together to provide wins.

PANTHERS PLAN TO UTILIZE UP-TEMPO SYSTEM

Leading the Panthers from the sideline will be head coach Dusty DeBoer, a Panthers’ assistant last season, who was recently promoted to replace previous head coach Cory Gropp.

A history teacher at Montezuma-Cortez High School and a 2011 graduate of San Diego State University, DeBoer hopes to energize his team by implementing an up-tempo offense.

“We’re going to do a lot more motion this year,” said DeBoer. “We’re going to make sure we have a lot of movement and a lot of catch and shoot. I think that we have the players to run and gun a little bit.”

On defense, the DeBoer plans to utilize multiple defenses, mixing zone and man-to-man schemes to keep opposing offenses on their toes.

“We’re going to trap a lot and play straight up man-to-man,” explained DeBoer. “We’re going to keep the offense guessing.”

PANTHERS WILL RELY HEAVILY SENIORS

Personnel wise, the Panthers will lean heavily on seniors Bracken Whiteskunk and Briston Walker.

Whiteskunk, a 6-foot-3 combo-guard known for his sharpshooting, will play every position on the floor, while Walker, a 6-foot-4 post player will anchor the Panthers inside.

“We need to play a lot of defense,” said Whiteskunk. “We’re a small team compared to everybody else. We have to pass and run the ball.”

“It’s hard to work it inside,” added Walker. “We have to work it outside and throw it inside when we’ve got good shots.”

Also figuring to play a key role for the Panthers will be junior big men Jonathan Walck and Randy Haley, talented athletes who provide energy, rebounding and strength.

Guards Jaron Carver (senior), Taylor Wilson (junior) and Conner McGee could also play big minutes for the Panthers.

PANTHERS TO PLAY DIFFICULT SCHEDULE

Playing in the always-difficult Southwest League, the Panthers figure to be challenged night in and night out, playing 4A and 5A schools from Durango, Montrose, Fruita, Monument and Grand Junction.

Highlighting the Panthers slate of games will be the season-opening Cortez Tournament (Dec. 6-7) and two matchups against the Durango Demons, on Jan. 30 and Feb. 11.

Discussing what he hopes to accomplish over the course of the season, DeBoer indicated that he hopes to improve on last season’s 6-14 record, while building character on his team.

“My goal is for all of these young men to become better basketball players and better citizens,” said DeBoer. “Win-loss record is great, but ultimately, high school sports is about making these guys better men.”

Coby Baer catches the ball during a drill at the Montezuma-Cortez High School basketball practice as Luis Perry watches the action. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

Coby Baer catches the ball during a drill at the Montezuma-Cortez High School basketball practice as Luis Perry watches the action.