Shady Spring – During a second-half timeout at the Shady Spring Shootout on July 19, Tyler Consolidated coach Steven Nutter huddled his squad up after they made a run.
“We’ve just outscored the best team in the state 16-5 since halftime,” Nutter told his team.
The team on the opposite end of the court that Nutter was referring to was reigning Class AAA champion Shady Spring.
With a lineup that features four rising juniors, two sophomores and an incoming freshman that’s expected to start, the Tigers have gone from hunters to hunted.
“The summer has helped us get ready for the way people are attacking us,” Olson said. “I get tired of saying it but we’re the hunted, the bullseye. We’re the cliché of the team everyone wants to beat. And I can see it just in the way teams play us. But as long as we meet that energy and play with that intensity and chip we did last year and realize and focus that energy, we’re going to be the team to beat and that’s the important of the summer – setting that tone.”
Still, the Tigers like the respect their status as champions has earned them. Comment’s like Nutter’s are just reminders of that.
“I think with the age of social media it’s really put things into perspective,” Olson said “Every team we play knows how many kids we have coming back. Not only do they know we won, but they know we won with mostly sophomores. Every game we’ve played we’ve heard ‘don’t put your head down, they’ve won a state championship,’ or ‘we’ve gotta match them.’ I’m not going to lie, it feels good because you know they respect you and the program you’ve built and that’s what you want. We have that when we walk in the gym, but we’ve got to keep it. You’ve got to balance that and have our guard up.”
Olson may have a job that most covet but it’s not the easiest.
It’s easy to be complacent after success but the summer still serves a purpose for a team on top of the world. For starters it helps maintain accountability and find chemistry with some new parts. Though the Tigers only lost one senior, they’ll have two players – freshman Jack Williams and Independence transfer Brady Green – that will likely play heavy minutes and push to start.
“I think we want to find some new chemistry,” Olson said. “My most important thing as a coach is can I trust you? I think playing in games to this level – some coaches don’t take it as serious but to me it’s vital. Who can I trust and who do I feel comfortable playing? If you don’t earn a coach’s trust it’s hard to play them.”
Fortunately for the Tigers the chemistry hasn’t been hard to find. Williams is the younger brother of former Shady all-stater Tommy Williams and played a lot of middle school ball with this group. Green went to middle school in Shady, started his high school career at Independence before coming back to his home district.
“This team seems like it’s been playing together for two years,” Olson said. “They haven’t skipped a beat. These guys share the ball as well as last year’s team did. It doesn’t stick. Everybody’s unselfish. The guys that are coming in – Jack and Brady – those are some unselfish guys. When you have unselfish guys playing with other unselfish guys, it makes the game easy and makes you very unguardable. You can’t really play one way or the other and it stretches you thin. I love the chemistry I’m seeing. There’s some things I want to fix on the defensive side a little bit but I like what I see on the offensive side and the comradery we have.”
Contact Tyler Jackson at email@example.com, call him at 304-731-5542 and follow on Twitter @tjack94