Rick Keltner is a critic of boring basketball.
The longtime Hays High boys coach loves a fast-paced, high-flying, trigger-happy style of play.
The Indians have the personnel to play that brand of basketball again this season, as evidenced in a season-opening 74-58 win over Great Bend on Thursday in the first round of the Gerald Mitchell Hays City Shootout at Hays High.
“I want to watch action,” Keltner said. “Boring basketball bothers me, so we’re going to try to play a full-court game.”
If the Indians continue to play like they did Thursday, nobody could ever accuse them of being boring.
The defending Western Athletic Conference champions connected on 10 of 30 3-pointers and kept the Panthers out of sorts with full-court pressure, forcing 21 turnovers.
Keltner says Hays High's depth will allow them to play fast. He made wholesale substitutions about every couple or minutes or so throughout Thursday's opener.
“I really like Paul Westhead's teams at Loyola-Marymount, but you can’t get high school kids in that kind of shape and play that way," Keltner said. "I figure with a two-minute shift … if you know you’re playing for two minutes, why can’t you play as hard as anybody in the world for two minutes?”
“It definitely will be an upside for us, because not a lot of teams run 10 guys, 11 guys, and we run that,” senior guard Trae McCrae added. “Most teams run like six, seven, eight guys, so they’re going to get tired. With us running the ball fast, they’re going to get tired.”
McCrae, the Indians' lone returning starter from a year, led Hays High with 18 points while Braiden Meyers and T.J. Nunnery added 12 and 10, respectively.
The Indians have more of an inside presence this year, with Dylan Ruder (6-foot-9), Trey Adams (6-7) and Cade Swayne (6-7).
“We have taller guys this year,” McCrae said. “So we can actually work it inside some. Last year our center was six-foot so we had to just shoot outside shots the whole time, but now we can actually work it in and it will give us a good balance on offense.”
Hays High led throughout, taking a 35-27 advantage into the break and leading by double digits for most of the second half.
Meyers and McCrae led Hays High's perimeter attack, combining for seven 3-pointers with Meyers hitting four treys and McCrae three.
“I believe the 3-point line is a good weapon,” Keltner said. “We got post guys we want to get the ball to, too. If we spread you out, we’re hoping we can be balanced and make it hard for people to guard us.”
Keltner said it was an encouraging start to the season for the Indians, who moved to the Shootout semifinals to face Manhattan at 7 p.m. Friday at Hays High.
“I think they’re good kids and they’re going to be fun to coach," Keltner said. "We showed some signs of being inside and out. We’re going to try to play fast. We scored 74 points tonight and we really didn’t shoot well. We missed a ton of layups and we missed some shots I think we can make.
“Knowing that you can go cold any night, our defense and defensive rebounding, we want to continue to work on. But I’m very happy with their effort first night out.”
Sam Ryan paced Great Bend with 10 points.