Last year at this time, Capitan boys basketball coach Justin Foust was in a quandary.
As the assistant football coach for the Tigers, he was proud to be part of a team that was storming to its first State title in 35 years.
But that title came at a price for the hoops season, as several athletes that would make the jump to the hardwood were too banged up from a brutal gridiron campaign.
What followed was a 6-20 season, winless in District 4-3A.
Also, Foust was in his first year as the coach, without a chance to get to know the guys in the offseason. Things have changed a bit.
“We had a really good summer this year,” Foust said. “We got a lot of basketball games in and developed some of the younger guys with injuries and discipline issues.”
Foust also has a few new faces to the team, guys who didn’t play basketball last season, but aren’t strangers to the court.
That includes junior Brendan Usery, who didn’t play his main sport – baseball – at all due to an injury.
Among those coming back from last season are seniors Price Bowen and Caleb Hightower, as well as role-playing seniors Domingo Montes and Tanner Lowrance
Don’t forget about senior Stephen Ellison, who ended last year’s football championship on crutches and didn’t play a single minute of basketball.
“We would love to see him play,” Foust said. “That’s a lot of great athletes, and we’re hoping they’ll stay healthy and give us a good season.”
In an effort to get the season started right, Foust has decided to forgo a traditional appearance in the Cloudcroft Mountaintop Tournament, scheduled for Dec. 7-9.
Last season, Foust had less than a week to prepare his team after the State football championship, and the same would be true this season.
Instead, they’ll start play with a single game at Cloudcroft, Dec. 12.
“We were banged up all year last year and never really recovered,” Foust said. “There were some close games near the end, though, and we have some more kids that will be on the team this year that weren’t last year. More depth on the bench will help us.”
It’s depth that will come in handy against a District 4-3A that includes Eunice, a team that was in the Class 3A State quarterfinals last season, basketball-tradition-rich Tularosa, and Dexter.
“It’s an uphill climb, but we’re hopeful,” Foust said.