The main point of emphasis for first-year boys varsity basketball coach Chase Plumb is pretty simple: Construct a team that buys into the process and believes in what they’re trying to accomplish.
“We’re going to be a team that’s hard -nosed in every game because we’re going to work our butts off,” Plumb said following an upbeat practice Monday evening. “I hope to see a team that buys into what the coaching staff and myself believes in. This summer we saw it already.
“We have kids who are wanting to buy into the program early, which is great to see.”
Last year under former head coach Lee Toldson, Douglas lost its first seven games to start the season and finished 7-17, its worst record since the 2011-2012 season (8-16). Last year’s struggles came a year after the Bearcats finished with at least 20 wins and a state tournament appearance in back-to-back seasons.
During their first practice back from Thanksgiving break on Monday, the Bearcats pushed the ball up and down the court with authority during drills and a brief scrimmage. The quick tempo will play a big role in Douglas’ new vision on offense this season.
“This team bought into the defensive aspect last year,” Plumb noted. “They stayed in a lot of games but really struggled to score at times. We’ve got some pieces back this year that can put the ball in the hole. We’re going to try and keep it at a faster pace and hopefully get some easy looks on offense based on that.”
The Bearcats enter the season without last year’s top scorers, Harley Rhoades (13 points per game) and Nate Underburg (6.6 points per game). They also lost graduating seniors Dawson Bratton, Michael Yeaman and Griffen Boe.
Colby Davidson, Kenyion Townsend and AJ Yeaman return after contributing significant minutes last season and will look to fill out a core group of 8-9 solid players for Douglas this season.
“We have a lot of kids coming back that played a good bit of varsity minutes last year,” Plumb explained. “I think we’re going to have 8-9 players that can play at a high level for us. Depth is going to be something that’s on our side this year.”
Plumb expects each of his six seniors along with Yeaman to vie for a starting spot. Although the decision will play itself out during the early stages of the season, it’s an early indication that the Bearcats will be a team full of athleticism.
“Offensively we just need to find a way to score a bit more,” Plumb said. “We’ve got some good athletes. We don’t have a ton of size but we have kids who can get up and down the floor so we’re going to play to our strengths there.”
Douglas finished 13th in 3A in team scoring last season, averaging just 47.6 points per game. They also finished last in team shooting at 33 percent.
Tait Larson will be one of six seniors for the Bearcats that will look to improve upon those numbers in a big way. The left-handed shooter returns this season after missing the 2017-2018 season due to suspension.
According to Plumb, this year’s team fills out with strong senior leadership, silent leaders who will get the job done and also some vocal leaders that will make sure the the Bearcats are going where they need to be.
Douglas will have tough competition in 3A East with Buffalo and Rawlins who both finished in the top three at the state tournament last year. Newcastle and Torrington also finished last season with winning records and will create a challenge for Plumb and the Bearcats in a top heavy quadrant.
With a 2-3 quadrant record last year, Worland and Wheatland also finished ahead of Douglas, leaving them in seventh in 3A East.
This year will once again provide a challenge and be an uphill battle but with a swath of players returning, a new, fast-paced offense could jumpstart the Bearcats this season.
“I’m excited, I think we’re going in the right direction,” Plumb said. “We have a good group of kids coming back. I think everyone’s pretty excited, I know I am.
“As far as wins and losses go, we’re going to get better as the season goes on but I’d like to see our entire program buy in.”
Douglas opens the season on the road in Buffalo Dec. 7-8 at the East/West Classic. It will open the weekend against Lovell and Pinedale.
The following weekend, the Bearcats will take part in the Douglas/Lander Classic and will host Torrington in their conference home opener to begin the new year Jan. 11.