The reason this was such an important week for the Montgomery County varsity boys basketball program is that they were in-training.
The format for these sessions tested the players desire as much as it did their physical skill sets, though. That's at least partially because Tue. and Fri. were evening practices while Wed. and Thu. were slated from 9:00 a.m.- 11:00 a.m.
"I've gotten to know them pretty well. I was also the golf coach at Elsberry last year, so I got to spend time around Cole (Curry), Aubrey (Nelson), Jackson Larkin and Skyler Hutcheson quite a bit because they were always on the course for Montgomery County" said new head coach Scott Kroeger. "Because we had all been to the same tournaments they already knew who I was."
Even though only so much can be accomplished in four days, this squad did compete several times in the summer scrimmage league because the head coach of host Hermann found a way to work the Wildcats in. Prior to that the squad also took the court at the Elsberry Shootout, but it was so shortly after Kroeger took the program over from former head coach Ron Lebel that the surrounding circumstances could best be described as a work in progress.
"I know the Athletic Director at Elsberry really well. I was getting ready to work with him and I've known him since I was 14 or so because he was at Silex when I was in high school," Kroeger said. "They had an opening at their shootout, so we had a chance to go out there before we had any camp dates. I met the team on a Monday then we had a scrimmage on Tuesday. That was pretty fun, just going there and letting them play while trying to teach them a few basic fundamentals along the way."
Adding to the drama of this situation is all the other issues Kroeger is trying to juggle in association with his new job. This includes a middle school camp last week on Tues. and Wed. from 11:00 a.m.- 12:30 p.m. and Kroeger's other position as a Pure Sweat basketball trainer.
"I've had a few days where I went to the high school and opened the gym up. I had the kids come in and we worked on some fundamental things," said Kroeger. "This team is all about basketball. Obviously, this program has a very good track record of success based on the previous season and the one before that. We shouldn't have a problem establishing a winning identity. The only difficult part is switching the system that was in place last year that allowed coach Lebel to have so much success."
In 2016-17 the Wildcats went 27-3 overall and won the Eastern Missouri Conference with a record of 10-0. This came after sporting a record of 17-9 overall, 7-3 EMO, in 2015-16 according to www.maxpreps.com.
"I'm still working out the individual game plans we'll use against other teams, but these guys will take to it. I have full confidence in that because they're smart players who try really hard," Kroeger said. "Their biggest goal is to win. I know they want to go farther (in the playoffs) than last year, and that's a huge goal of mine, as well."
As for last seasons playoff run, Montgomery County won the class 3, district 7, title by defeating Wright City 81-62 on Feb. 21, Lutheran-St. Charles 95-79 on Feb. 23 and Christian 62-54 on Feb. 25. The Wildcats then beat Monroe City 90-70 in sectionals on March 1 prior to losing in the quarterfinals on March 4 to eventual state champ Transportation and Law 65-53.