By Moses Leos III and Quixem Ramirez
New coach brings faster pace to Lobos
Stepping foot on the Lobo Den court isn’t a new experience for James Halatin.
During his previous stops as a boys basketball coach at San Marcos and Lockhart, Halatin often made regular visits to Lehman High.
Over the summer, Halatin made those visits more permanent after he accepted the role as the next Lehman High girls basketball head coach. For Halatin, helping the Lady Lobos improve, while also being able to compete in a tough district, is his goal.
Halatin takes the helm of a Lehman program that went 7-26 in 2015 under former head coach Jamie Coy, who departed for Round Rock Westwood this summer.
It was over the summer that Halatin held open gyms in order to bring as many players in as possible to “build a little energy” into the team’s system. He said as many as 30 to 40 students attended open gyms, and that they have “bought in” and are showing interest.
Working to build on-court IQ was Halatin’s focus during the offseason. He said Coy did a “good job getting them going” and that he wanted to continue to build on that.
Speeding up the pace of play is also a key for Halatin and his staff, as he tries to bring the Lady Lobos to a “6A pace.” Lehman will square off against perennial basketball powers Vista Ridge, Westlake and Lake Travis in district play.
But adhering to team strengths and not trying to “fit a square peg in a round hole” is imperative, Halatin said.
“We don’t have a 6’3” kid we can dump the ball into the post,” Halatin said. “We have to rely on motion, where all five of us are a viable option on offense and all five are moving and rebounding on defense.”
Lehman will look to do so with several returning players, including Crystal Montoya and Audrianna Dienhart.
“The kids are buying in and practices are picking up pace, because they are starting to react now instead of think,” he said. “You can see the little light bulbs going on.”
Expectations run high for Hays girls hoops in 2016
Over the last four seasons, the Hays girls basketball team has won over 68 percent of its games.
With the 2016-17 season beginning Nov. 5 against Cibolo Steele, head coach Danny Preuss believes the team is poised to reach those lofty expectations, if not higher.
Hays won 22 games last season, which included 11 district victories that put the Rebels in the same conversation as Bowie, Westlake and Anderson.
This year’s district realignment means Hays will face different district opponents, like Vista Ridge and Vandegrift in 25-6A.
What won’t change are the expectations that come with facing the Rebels.
“Teams are looking to knock us off,” Preuss said. “All the coaches I talk to say we have a reputation. They say, ‘ya’ll are gonna be good this year,’ so nobody is gonna take us lightly.”
Choon-Hee Chae, who returns for her senior season, averaged 14.5 points and shot 43 percent from the field.
Chae was the team’s leading scorer and the fulcrum of a fast-paced, perimeter-oriented offense. For thris season, Preuss is expecting the same productivity across the board.
“She played a big role last year and she’ll play an equally big role this year,” Preuss said. “Just do what she did last year. She needs to be a double-digit scorer, if not more.”
With Chae leading the offense, Hays’ preferred style of play is one that doesn’t require an offense at all. Instead, Preuss wants his team to create easy points in transition and press the opponents into making mistakes that lead to more turnovers.
The heartbeat of Hays’ offense, which averaged 53.5 points per game last season, is in transition.
“In a perfect world, we don’t even run an offense,” Preuss said. “We are gonna be a pressing team, a fast-break team. It’ll hopefully be good, exciting games of basketball. We aren’t gonna walk the ball up the floor. We’ll push it every possession. We want to dictate play with our defense and our offense as well.”
Hays returns six of 10 players from last year’s roster. Preuss noted that many of the girls have been on the varsity team for four seasons.