As the fall sports seasons begin to wind down, the winter sports are trying to sneak to center stage. Monday marked the first official day of basketball season as teams were allowed to take to the court for organized practice for the first time.
Several teams are missing some of their key players who are still on the football field or the volleyball court but it is not slowing everyone down. Both Wetumpka basketball teams got started Monday which included the first practice for the boys team under new coach Byron Gaskin.
“We’re actually going to be going late this week,” Gaskin said. “After football, I’m going straight to basketball. I have some new assistants so I didn’t want to throw them in there and let them run things, especially since they don’t know how I want things to run yet.”
While the players who are on the football team are still not practicing with the basketball team, Gaskin is making time to pull double duty to cover his responsibilities for both programs. Gaskin said he has 10 players on both varsity teams and even though they may miss some time on the court, it’s not a bad thing to see.
“We encourage any two-sport athletes to keep playing both sports,” Gaskin said. “I don’t want football season to end but I do want basketball season to begin because I’m anxious and excited to get started.”
While everyone wants to see the smooth transition of a new team, it may not always be that easy with the first practice at the high school level. However, Gaskin is not too concerned with where his team’s basketball skills are at right now as much as he wants to see its energy level raised for practice this week.
“Intensity is really what I’m looking for in that first week,” Gaskin said. “We’re not worried so much about execution right now but we want to see 100 percent effort and intensity.”
Wetumpka girls coach Jermel Bell echoed that sentiment and said his players would be refocusing on the fundamentals during the first week of practice despite having a majority of his varsity roster returning.
“It’s always good to focus on the fundamentals in any sport,” Bell said. “We want to get back to the basics and try to get our legs under us. That stuff counts late in games — make free throws, making layups, playing defense. That’s the kind of stuff that will help as the season goes on.”
Holtville’s boys team got started Monday but with a very limited roster as coach Michael Collins said only six players were available for the first practice. It will be at least three weeks before the team gets a majority of its roster back from the football field but the Bulldogs did not want to waste any time off the court.
Other schools have not been as lucky to get started on the opening day of practice. Both Elmore County teams are starting late as boys coach Rodney Taylor said his team is waiting until football season is over before starting. The girls team was held back by the volleyball team hosting area tournament on Monday but it was in the gym on Tuesday with the available players.