The third Hays High girls head basketball coach in three years, Kyle Porter knows there isn't a quick way to shortcut the process of his players adapting to another new coach.
But Porter said the Indians have adjusted to the change as well as he could have asked for.
"Any time there’s a new coach, new expectations, new voice, it’s going to be different,” Porter said. “With these girls, they’ve adapted well. I’m their third coach in three years. I kind of feel for them because that’s a huge challenge to kind of start over again, but it gives everyone a clean slate. I thought these first couple of weeks have gone how I expected.
“We’ve had a lot of highs, and we’ve had some challenging moments too. I think our team has grown through each experience in practice. We’ve tried to challenge our kids a lot. Some challenges haven’t went well, others have went well. Just taking one day at a time for our team is key.”
After two hugely successful seasons as head coach at Royal Valley, Porter was hired to coach the HHS girls last May, replacing Alex Hutchins, who was tabbed as Hays High boys basketball coach after one season coaching the girls team.
Porter guided the Royal Valley girls to a Class 3A state championship last season after directing the Panthers to a runner-up finish the year before.
He will make his debut with the Indians on Thursday in the Gerald Mitchell Hays City Shootout. Hays High opens with Wichita-Life Prep at 6:30 p.m. at Hays High School.
The Indians 14-8 a year ago, losing seniors Savannah Schneider, Jaycee Dale, Mattie Hutchison and Kallie Leiker off that team.
“I think we’re going to be a group that if we learn how to compete and get past a little adversity, we’re going to be a tough team to face,” Porter said. “I think skill-wise, we have to continue to develop and get better. I think you’re going to see our skill improve as the year goes on. Initially, the first thing I want from our team is to be consistent competitors in practice and to have that show on Tuesday and Friday nights."
Porter will look for leadership from seniors Tasiah Nunnery, Isabel Robben and Brooke Denning.
"Tasiah Nunnery, she's an athlete. We want her to get every rebound. We see her having a really big year," Porter said. "Isabel Robben, we want her to cut to the basket, to do all the dirty work for us offensively and defensively. Brooke Denning, we're really going to rely on her early, especially to score and to be a good leader for us."
Porter said sophomores Taleia McCrae and Aleyia Ruder and junior Brooklyn Schaffer will take on bigger roles this season.
He said the Indians' style of play will look similar to how they played last year under Hutchins.
“Really my main components are we want to run the floor hard, we want to try to get baskets in transition, we don’t want to give up transition baskets on defense, we want to attack the paint, we want to be aggressive and then we want to defend and rebound,” Porter said. “And I think that’s very similar to what Coach Hutchins wanted last year. How we’re going to do it might be a little different both offensively and defensively, but we’re really trying to arrive at the same destination, which is to try to get easy baskets and prevent easy baskets for our opponent.”
Porter said it will pay dividends to open the season in a tough tournament like the Hays Shootout, but he wants the Indians to remain positive no matter the results this week.
"I think the worst thing we can do is to have unrealistic expectations for this Hays Shootout," he said. "This is the first time this group is playing together, we have three games in three days — it's kind of like a jamboree you see in other states. For us, I want us to compete as hard as we can. I want us to be able to get past mistakes and play the next play and just go out and play hard.
"We're going to take those three games, we're going to assess them and learn just like we learn from every game. We're going to go to practice the next day and work to get better. As a coach, I like it because it's a good barometer for where we're at to start the year — nothing more, nothing less. We've got a long ways to go as a team; I don't expect us to play perfect, but we really get to see where we're at really early in the season."