After playing four games in five hours on Thursday during the first day of the Sturgeon Shootout, the North Callaway varsity boys basketball team returned on Friday for day two.
"I think (we did better on Friday than Thursday). It's summertime so you have to take everything with a grain of salt, but our energy was much better," said coach Matt Miller. "The guys worked hard, played competitive and came motivated."
In the first game of this event the Thunderbirds played Sturgeon and lost on a last-second shot. The squad then faced New Bloomfield and won by double-digits prior to taking on Glasgow and doing the same.
"Against Sturgeon we played good in the first half, but didn't have a lot of energy in the second half. They came back on us and hit a shot at the buzzer to win it," Miller said. "Against New Bloomfield we played very well. That was probably the best overall game on both ends of the floor that we played in two days at this shootout. Out of six halves of basketball we played really well for five of them. I was very pleased with what I saw."
One difference for the Thunderbirds was that on Thursday they had 10 players on hand. On Friday Miller was limited to a six-man rotation. That didn't seem to make him to upset, though, which is at least partially due to the fact he didn't make this a mandatory event because of the time of year.
"That's how summer goes sometimes. Summer is busy for everybody," said Miller. "This event does have a JV component, but we just took our varsity."
Even though it's still early in the offseason, Miller knows he eventually has to name a starting lineup. That's why he plans to put these kids to work and let the best separate themselves from the rest despite the fact he already has a decent idea about what most of that group is going to consist of.
"I was talking about our starting lineup with one of our assistant coaches recently and, while it's cliched to say that every spot is up for grabs, it's true," Miller said. "We don't want guys to get complacent and things like that, but I've got a pretty good idea on three or four of our starting five."
As for team strengths, what Miller saw on Thursday rang just as true on Friday. That means while the offense is running smoother than expected, the defense is still needs some refinement.
"Ou defense is still a wok in progress, definitely. I liked more of what I saw (on Friday) than what I saw (on Thursday)," said Miller."Guys were battling a lot more on the floor on the defensive end. Our communication was also better, and those were all positives. Our last game was at the end of February and we haven't played a game since. What we saw today was better than yesterday and as a coach that's the type of thing you want to see."
There is one factor in all of this that took a back seat to everything else. Specifically, while the players were excited and anxious to get back on the court and compete, so were Miller and his staff.
"Absolutely. The six athletes who showed up (Friday) are six of the most dedicated guys in our program. By choosing to be there in what's really their spare time because I don't force them to be there, they had some fun and learned some things, for sure, "Miller said. "We've got a lot of guys who are learning to play the game the right way. We're going to defend. We preach defense. That appeases fans with an old-school mentality. On the offensive end we're versatile and athletic, so we play fast."