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HHS boys are deep

By AUSTIN COLBERT

acolbert@dailynews.net

The first thing Hays High School boys' basketball coach Rick Keltner did after tryouts this season was make sure the players understood the reality of the situation. The Indians were talented and deep -- a depth that could lead to limited playing time.

"We'll be a good team if every player knows if he is in there for one minute or four minutes, it's just what can you help us do?" Keltner said. "We had them circled up and every player said out loud, one at a time, 'I will do whatever I can to help this team be successful, whatever that role may be.' We kind of made that commitment to each other."

The Indians can easily go 10 deep without losing much on the court, something that has them excited for the season. Hays High, after a 14-8 season and trip to the Class 5A state tournament last year, lost key contributors Nick Petz, Adam Deterding and Derek Bixenman, but return more than enough to make another trip to state likely.

Led by 6-foot-7 junior Brady Werth, the reigning WAC player of the year, the Indians enter the season ranked No. 6 in Class 5A in the initial KBCA rankings. With no less than six seniors expected to contribute heavily, expectations are undoubtedly high entering the season. To think the Indians were only 6-15 two seasons ago is difficult to fathom.

"We kind of took some lumps here and there, and then last year we gave a few lumps but still took a few," Keltner said. "I told our guys we have to play like David and not like Goliath. Just come out and attack. Our mentality has to be that we are hungry. Two years ago there were times I thought we needed a little humble pie."

While Werth is the centerpiece of the team, he is hardly alone. Seniors Kenny Rounkles, Kade Parker and Wakeeney-Trego Community High School transfer Clayton Riedel will give the Indians plenty of options in the post.

Guard play looks especially strong, led by seniors Lane Clark, Jordan Windholz and Kyler Niernberger. Juniors Nathan Romme and Cash Hobson will also see time on the court alongside rising sophomore Isaiah Nunnery.

"It's really competitive during practice. You try to encourage each other, but on the other hand you want to be better than everyone else," said Niernberger, who led the team in assists a year ago with 4.2 a game. "In practice it just makes everyone better because you are going up against better competition. It's better than some JV squad and is definitely getting us ready for the season."

Hays High opens its season on Thursday against Riley County in the first round of the Gerald Mitchell Hays City Shootout. Tip off is set for 8:15 p.m. at the HHS gym. The rest of the field includes DeSoto, Newton, Colby, Thomas More Prep-Marian, and WAC foes Great Bend and Garden City.

The Indians defeated Kearney (Neb.) 59-42 in the tournament's championship game last season.

"Of course people are going to look to beat us," Clark said. "We are looking to beat everybody else, too. We are just going to treat our next game as the most important."