After opening the season with three games that concluded with a third-place showing in the Alisal Tournament on Dec. 3, Hollister High boys basketball coach David Kaplansky said there were plenty of positives to glean from early in the season.
“Our team defense is starting to really improve,” said Kaplansky, who is in his second go-around as the team’s coach after his first run ended upon the completion of the 2013-2014 season. “I thought we did a nice job throughout the week in getting better at guarding the ball and rotating off the ball. With rebounding, we did a nice job of boxing out and keeping our opponents off the glass. I like where we are in our halfcourt defense. We ran a bunch of man (to man) and I felt like our kids stepped up on their matchups and improved on the principles we’re trying to teach.”
Even though the Haybalers lost to Robert Louis Stevenson 42-31 in the winners’ bracket semifinals, Kaplansky said it was a “huge accomplishment” holding the Pirates—who eventually went on to win the tournament, scoring 71 points in the final—to a low point total.
Sure, the 31 points Hollister scored is definitely nothing to crow about, but Kaplansky is confident the offensive flow will come in time.
“Ultimately, when you’re taking over a program, your defense is always going to be ahead of the offense, he said. “Offensively, in the RLS game, the kids played so hard they now have to get used to playing with heavy legs. I was actually happy with the offensive shot selection and felt like we were getting quality shots, but we just didn’t knock them down. We definitely have room to grow offensively, but they’re in the right spot and taking good shots, so we’re just waiting for them to fall.”
Sophomore point guard Chandler Crutcher has been dynamic as expected. A deft ball-handler and terrific passer, Crutcher is vital to the team’s play at all times.
“Chandler has been phenomenal at handling the pressure from other teams,” Kaplansky said. “His quarterbacking us from the backcourt really stood out to me. He’s a great point guard and we can build off his ability to handle the ball pressure.”
Returning starting center Jaiden Prado has also impressed with his improving ability in different areas of the game. He had 15 points and 10 rebounds in a 56-48 win over Watsonville on Nov. 6, beating the Wildcatz for the second time in four days.
“Our offense opens up when we can pin Jaiden down on the block and he’s getting in rhythm around the post,” Kaplansky said. “He passes well out of the post and we can kind of run our offense through him which frees things up. He’s getting a good feel around the basket and I’m looking for him to improve. And I’m proud of the kids and how they’re looking for him on the block which has been nice to see.”
Senior guard Dominic Price is coming off a breakout season in which he showed the ability to handle ball pressure and get to the basket off dribble penetration.
“Dom does a nice job of seeing the floor and makes great passes,” Kaplansky said. “He gives us a lot of leadership on the floor and is a third-year (varsity) senior, and he’s improving defensively and helping us in a leadership role.”
Newcomer Chase Conley has also drawn Kaplansky’s praise for being calm on the ball and composed on the court. The junior guard scored 16 points in a win over Rancho San Juan in the season-opening game in the Alisal Tournament.
“Chase is very fundamental and I like the way he’s competed on defense,” Kaplansky said. “He drew a tough matchup against an RLS all-league guard and held him to nine points. He knocked down some good shots versus Rancho San Juan so we’re looking for him to be a big part on both ends of the floor.”
Another junior guard, Elyon Pascua, shined in scoring 15 points coming off the bench in the Balers’ 66-42 win over Watsonville in the third-place game on Dec. 3.
“Elyon really impressed me from the perimeter,” Kaplansky said. “He was really finding the looks we’re trying to get from our perimeter guys and he was finding guys. That was the game he modeled the kind of looks we want to get from the perimeter and he gave us a big lift when we needed it.”
Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org