Packers are all in; Austin boys basketball team has shown depth early on
Published 9:52 pm Wednesday, December 9, 2015
The Packer boys basketball team is short on egos and selfishness this season, but it is high on depth and athleticism.
It’s the perfect blend for an Austin team that is suddenly back in the state rankings after winning its first four games of the season. The Packers (4-0 overall) are ranked No. 5 in Class AAA, and there are a whole lot of players that are carrying the load. Austin has had three different leading scorers in its first four games and its had at least eight players score in every game.
Austin head coach Kris Fadness said this is by far the most athletic team he’s coached with the Packers.
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“I think we’ve probably got fifteen guys that are all capable of playing varsity minutes,” he said. “We like our depth and we’ve got guys that can put the ball in the hole.”
While every high school basketball player likes to get in the scoring column, this team understands that not everyone can be the go-to guy. Austin has plenty of players capable of putting up points, but they key is to find out who is on during a certain night.
“Jace [Murray] and Mark [Manyuon] have stepped up it up this year,” Austin senior Zach Coffey said. “We’ve thrived off the older guys doing well and the sophomores have played well this year too. It’s a unit. It’s not just one guy. We play for each other and we play as a team every night.”
Fadness credited Coffey for his attitude this season. Coffey has practiced with the varsity since he was a freshman and he was a starter on last year’s team. He’s still starting, but he’s splitting his playing time like every other player on the squad.
“He’s a captain, this is his senior year and he’s been waiting for this moment where he’s going to play thirty minutes a game,” Fadness said. “That’s just not the strength of our team, we’ve got to go with our depth and Zach, being a leader, has accepted it.”
The advantage of having a roster that goes at least 10-deep allows the Packers to play with relentless aggression. Players give it their all until it’s time for a sub to come in and relieve them.
“We feel very confident, because we’re a fast team compared to other teams,” sophomore Both Gach said. “We can run on them and then we can sub and bring new guys in who have new energy.”
Both watched his older brother Gach Gach play in the state tournament multiple times and a trademark of those Packer teams was unselfish basketball. That attitude has carried over to this year’s Packer team.
“They worked as a team together and we’re trying to reflect off that,” Both said.
Fadness said his team’s willingness to play together is symbolic of what the players are like. While there are some issues of finding the right cohesiveness on offense at times, the Packers are all in it for the same goal.
“It speaks to who we are. They seem to get along with each other,” Fadness said. “When you’ve got a team as diverse as our team is, it’s really nice to see.”
The Packers will now face their biggest test of the season when they host the defending Big Nine champs Rochester John Marshall (4-0 overall) 7:30 p.m. in Packer Gym. The Rockets which are ranked No. 5 in Class AAAA, are outscoring their opponents 74-49.5 points per game and they have strong leadership in senior Michael Hurt, who is a University of Minnesota commit. JM will also get a big boost from freshman Matthew Hurt.
“Their starting five is the best I’ve seen in the Big Nine since I’ve been here. We’ve got to find a way to compete. It’s tough when they’ve got multiple DI kids on the team and it’s not just them, they’re starting five is just ridiculous,” Fadness said. “It’s a monumental challenge for us, but you never go into a game not believing in yourself, I don’t care who you’re playing.”