Butler County Times Gazette
  • Winter sports preview: Augusta boys basketball

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  • It can be a good problem to have.
    Augusta’s boys basketball team will have plenty of options scoring the basketball. Seniors Sean Brandenburg and Kyler Steinkamp can hurt opponents in multiple ways. Senior Tristan Finch can do a little of everything. The Orioles have younger shooters who can step up.
    And there’s no question the offense starts with Connor Hurst, who is entering his junior season and will take over at point guard. His ability to break down a defense will open up things for everyone else.
    But coach David Stephenson knows it will take more than talent for the Orioles to get over the hump and do some damage at sub-state. He said it would be the little things that make the difference. And the Orioles still need to have a commitment to rebounding, particularly the defensive end, one of their weakest areas last season.
    “We definitely have some more height, but we’ve got to get that height to rebound, so rebounding is the most important thing,” Stephenson said. “I told the kids our first-shot defense was awesome. It was just our second-, third- and fourth-shot defense.”
    As the 2013-14 season approaches—the Orioles’ opener is at home Friday against Mulvane—Stephenson is counting on leadership from his upperclassmen to work through and clean up those issues. Though the Orioles have had a slower start in practices than usual, the experienced players are figuring out they need to embrace their roles quickly.
    “Leadership is not something that comes easy to high school kids, but I think we’ve done a good job the past few practices,” Stephenson said. “…Some of those seniors are starting to figure out that high school is really short.”
    From point A...
    There aren’t too many players like Hurst that come along.
    Hurst quietly became a big-time leader for the Orioles in several statistical categories last season. He scored, he ran hard, and he created turnovers and scoring opportunities for teammates. For Hurst, the sky is the limit for his junior season.
    He just has to work for it.
    “I talked to Connor about being special and not just being good,” Stephenson said. “He has that potential to be special. He has straight As in the classroom, and that’s awesome. He just has to pay attention to the details.”
    Those details include waiting on screens and setting good screens, crisp passing and getting more consistent on defense. With Hurst running the point-guard position, the offense starts with him.
    Page 2 of 3 - “I take the open shots when I have it, but then again, I got to look for my teammates and I got to get them into the game, too,” Hurst said.
    If Hurst can consistently get by defenses, he will force help, which will create open opportunities for the plethora of Oriole shooters.
    “There are times where there will be all five people on the floor who can shoot an open 3,” Steinkamp said.
    ...to point B
    It’s not just Hurst who can ignite the offense. Seniors like Steinkamp and Brandenburg can hurt opponents both inside and out. Guards like Tristan Finch and Dustyn McEachern can drain shots. Brandon Smith will be a big presence inside. And there are younger players like Cody Wesbrooks and Cole Howerton who will be fighting for their chance to get in the act.
    “We’re one of the deepest teams we’ve have in a while,” Steinkamp said.
    With so many options, it will be important that details receive that attention. Stephenson likes to mix up rotations, especially with a player as multi-faceted as Steinkamp, who is up for the challenge of playing anywhere on the court.
    “It’s a little added pressure with having to know where I’m at all times,” Steinkamp said. “Am I supposed to be a 4-man and throw the ball in every time, or am I a 2- or 3-man and running the floor, and especially for knowing where to set up on plays and having to remember multiple spots. But it’s nothing I haven’t dealt with before. I’m up for it.”
    “He’s a smart enough kid to know all the positions,” Stephenson said of Steinkamp. “…He’s going to be seeing all kinds of different people guarding him. So he can take advantage of the bigger ones outside and take advantage of the smaller ones inside.”
    Back in the saddle
    There’s no doubt that losing Brandenburg to an ACL injury last year was devastating. And the team missed more than just his shooting ability. The Orioles are excited to look to Brandenburg to feed off his leadership qualities.
    “Our chemistry is a lot of better than it was last year, especially with Sean back,” Hurst said.
    Getting back into full-speed mode hasn’t been a problem for Brandenburg, who went through a lot to get back at full strength.
    “After physical therapy, really it was summer ball and extra shooting and conditioning. Definitely conditioning was a huge part to get back in the swing of things,” Brandenburg said. “Not nervous at all [playing] with the brace.”
    Page 3 of 3 - Brandenburg earned a lot of his stripes with his exceptional shooting skills, especially beyond the arc, but he also is one of the team’s tallest players. Rather than struggling to find balance between playing inside and outside, he is ready to excel at both.
    “I feel like it’s just adding to my arsenal,” Brandenburg said of improving in the post.

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