By Jim Irish
Bastrop first-year boys basketball coach Eric Woods understands that he is starting from scratch. Only three athletes return with varsity experience.
The Bears (13-19 overall, 5-9 in district last season) last compiled a winning season in 2011. Josiah Monroe, a 5-foot-8 guard, led Bastrop to a 21-12 record that year and to the fourth round of the Class 4A playoffs, where it lost to Dallas Kimball 73-49. Kimball won the state title over La Marque. One Kimball player, 6-7 forward Jalen Jones, later played at Texas A&M and in the NBA.
Woods arrived with a goal of altering the direction of a program that has lacked a winning tradition.
"Overall, we want to change the mindset and build a program our kids feel proud of," said Woods, the varsity girls coach the past three years at Marshall who led it to the playoffs last season for the first time in 11 years. "There's a process of becoming a winner. We're trying to put the pillars together for us to start moving in that direction."
"Overall, we want to change the mindset and build a program our kids feel proud of."
-- Bastrop head coach Eric Woods
Dylan Tyson (sr., 6-2) is Bastrop's only returning starter. Last season, Tyson, who plays either guard or forward, averaged 4.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game while he shot 34% from the floor and 57% from the free throw line.
Returning lettermen are Max Miller (sr., 6-4, forward) and Nathaniel Mosley (jr., 6-0, guard).
Newcomers include Greg Wilson (jr., 6-0), Keyshon Moore (so., 5-7), and Jaelyn Gratten (so., 5-10). Moore was an athletic running back and receiver on the varsity football team, while Gratten started at defensive cornerback.
Woods wants only athletes who are committed to the program
A couple of other football players who would have had a positive impact declined to participate, leading Woods to say, "It's important we get the right kids that are committed to the program."
Woods, who played collegiate basketball at Division I schools Louisiana Tech and Northwestern (La.) State, has developed his own coaching philosophy.
"I'm a players coach first. I believe in the power of relationships."
Woods on his coaching philosophy
"I'm a players' coach first," he said. "I believe in the power of relationships. (I want) to build a relationship with our players and see them grow on and off the court. Put them in situations that are going to be real life."
Woods has observed changes over the last 20 years in basketball at the high school level.
"In today's game, there's not really any post players," he said. "Everybody wants to be a guard. Nobody wants to be a post player. There has been a hyper focus on overall skills. Ball handling has become really popular. With the emergence of Stephon Curry, all the kids want to work on their 3-point shots. They're going to mimic what they see in the NBA."
Woods' plan depends on personnel, which lacks experience at the moment
Woods said his plan depends on the personnel, which hasn't had much experience or success.
"Coming into this program, we've identified some strengths and weaknesses," he said. "We want to set a foundation that we think is going to be successful for our kids."
On offense, Bastrop will play uptempo and create extra possessions because it lacks height.
On defense, Woods said the goal is not to give up the open shot.
"I'm not a huge pressing guy unless I have the right depth and personnel," he said. "To be honest, I don't know if we have that here in Bastrop. "(But) you've got to have it in your tool box."
Bastrop will throw both a man-to-man and zone defense at opponents in games.
"I like to be versatile," he said. "Every play we do is based on man principles, even our zone defense."
Woods is realistic about this season.
"It'd be great if we do have a chance to make the playoffs, but I'm not putting that pressure on us this season, not on our players, not on myself. It takes time to become a winner. It doesn't just happen."
Bastrop starts its season at Class 3A Rockdale on Saturday. Its first home game is against Lake Belton on Nov. 15.
Jim Irish is a freelance writing living in Bastrop, Texas.