Sometimes teams are forced into challenges by circumstance, but that doesn’t mean that they have to shy away from them.
That’s the case for the Manitou Springs boys basketball team in 2022-23. A reshuffling of the classification system state-wide has the Mustangs jumping to Class 4A this season. It may seem like a tall task, but the good news is that a sixth classification has been added so, for the most part, they’ll see the same teams they’d normally see in the year.
For the most part.
Teams like Pueblo Central and Sierra remain 4A teams, while teams like St. Mary’s and Buena Vista remain in 3A.
“We’re trying to challenge ourselves a bit with some non-conference games just to see where we are,” coach Brian Vecchio said. “Our league stayed intact and we do have a hybrid 3A/4A league, which makes up about two-thirds of our schedule.”
The Mustangs return a good number of starters from last year, including Lairden Rogge, Andrew Rhodes and John Maynard. Tyler Maloney and Nate Gentzel are also back, and Evan Scherr will be on the floor after he was ineligible to play varsity last season.
“We’re looking at a solid squad that has five seniors who can all contribute,” Rogge said. “The expectations are pretty high.”
Maynard led the Mustangs with 13.4 points per game last year, while Rhodes and Rogge each averaged a little less than 10. A new crop of players will have to step into big roles and it will be on those seniors to help guys like Sam Fournier and Evan Yount assert themselves in those roles.
“Leadership is a big thing for us,” Maynard said. “We have to push each other in practice and just show that we have the potential to do that and show them what they can do if they put in the work.”
The Mustangs took huge leaps last year, considering they scored just 17 points in the season’s first game, a loss to Peyton, and then battled their way to the Round of 16 in the 3A state tournament.
Keeping that slow start in mind is what will help this team enter the season with a refreshed mindset and a clear view of its mission.
“We have to go in with the mindset of just filling our roles,” Maynard said. “We also have to attack on both sides of the ball for all four quarters.”
Experience is going to help the Mustangs to start the season and it’s always nice to see an athlete like Scherr join the team. He will be a viable asset, just as he was for the Mustangs on the football field.
“His greatest asset is that he’s a tremendous competitor,” Vecchio said. “I watched him all football season and he was a leader on the field and a competitor. And he’s going to bring that same energy and effort to basketball every day.”
MANITOU SPRINGS BOYS BASKETBALL
Head coach: Brian Vecchio
2021-22 result: 14-10, lost in second round of the state tournament
Key returners: Nate Gentzel, John Maynard, Lairden Rogge, Andrew Rhodes
First competition: Nov. 30 at Peyton