Expectations are high for the George McDougall Mustangs senior boys’ basketball team after winning its first Rocky View Sports Association (RVSA) title last season.
The team may have gone through some major changes, with five players graduating and an all-new coaching staff, but with a large core of returnees and an eager new bench boss, the team is focused on retaining its championship and making a push for a provincial title.
“We’re all really excited. What we are seeing with the team is everyone is committed and all in,” said head coach Nathan Lee. “The seniors are prepped and ready to do well again this year.
“We are competitive by nature, we’re very serious about the game…. That competitive nature and desire to win is going to be on the forefront of the success we’ll see in the future.”
Lee takes over on the bench from coach JT Thompson who announced he was retiring following the 2016-17 season.
Lee inherits a team coming off its two most successful seasons, in which the Mustangs captured its first RVSA title, won the Alberta Schools’ Athletic Association (ASAA) South Central Zone and made two back-to-back appearances in the ASAA 3A Provincials.
He said there is a level of nerves following in what Thompson built, but is excited about leaving his mark on the team.
“We’re coming off of a big season from last year, and I know these guys are really excited, as well as myself, to see what we can do in the coming year,” Lee said.
“Having had a good history with these boys and a good mindset, it will definitely help us as we get into the season.”
A major positive in Lee’s first season as bench boss is the amount of returnees from last season’s roster looking to help the Mustangs get over its next hurdle and capture a provincial title.
Lee said he will need players like Caleb Lee, Carter Sawby and Jaiden Pannu, who all took on key roles on last season’s team, to step up and become more prominent players on the court in their senior season.
Lee, Sawby and Pannu will lead a group of eight returnees, making for an experienced group that will look to be a force when the season starts up Dec. 6.
“These are the kids that have grown up playing together, they know each other, they’re friends and they love the game,” Lee said. “There are big shoes to fill, but I’m confident we’ve got the variety of skillsets within our team to succeed.
“These boys are in tune with what’s expected of them and in what way they’re going to contribute.”
One concern Lee said he could see is a lack of size in comparison to last season where guys like Justin Bragg and Hunter Young were able to dominate in around the key.
With a little less size, Lee said this year’s Mustangs would have to utilize speed against some of the larger teams in the RVSA.
“We’re going to increase in terms of our transitional speed – we’ve got a shorter team, but a team that is very quick,” he said.
“We’re hoping to build off that, look to our outside game, as well as looking for an advantage inside when the opportunities present themselves.”
The Mustangs kick off its 2017-18 season Dec. 6 with a road contest against the Cochrane Cobras at 7:45 p.m.