Young Fort Hays State guards catching on
If there’s an upside to Fort Hays State’s lack of depth in the backcourt, it’s that the Tigers' freshmen guards are getting ample opportunity to get acclimated to the ups and downs of college basketball.
FHSU coach Mark Johnson said being thrown into the fire with heavy minutes is benefitting guards Kaleb Hammeke and Quinten Rock.
“(There is the) good and the bad about not having depth," Johnson said. "The bad is you don’t have depth, and that gives you problems. The good part is that guys get to stay out there and play though mistakes and gain confidence. They realize, ‘Even if I have a bad moment, I’m going to continue to be out here.
“Us not being able to sub a whole lot has probably helped these young guys advance a little quicker.”
Hammeke, a redshirt freshman from Hutchinson, turned in a breakthrough outing in the Tigers’ 81-68 exhibition upset win at Kansas State last Tuesday. He finished with 15 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals. He followed it up with a career-high 20 points and five assists in FHSU’s 81-75 overtime win at Newman on Saturday.
Rock had 15-point outings in both the K-State and Newman wins.
“We have to have them be aggressive,” Johnson said. “(Hammeke) and Quinten are starting to gain a little confidence in themselves.”
Johnson said the time table for junior point guard Nyjee Wright to return “is still a big question mark," as Wright continues his recovery from foot surgery.
The Tigers (1-3) are hoping Gabe Pieschl, a redshirt sophomore who is also recovering from a foot injury, could be cleared sometime soon after Christmas break.
Johnson, after completing his quarantine period following a positive COVD-19 result on Monday of last week, will be back on the sideline for Friday’s 7:30 p.m. game against Northeastern State at Gross Memorial Coliseum.
Todd Johnston served as acting head coach for the K-State game, and associate head coach Jeremy Brown was back to direct the team at Newman after completing his quarantine as a close contact.
“Just really proud of our guys,” Johnson said of the Tigers’ performances last week. “I thought our players did a really good job of being mature and handling the week. I thought Jeremy and Todd did a very good job obviously of having our team prepared to play and go out and put themselves in a position to be successful.”
Johnson said it was exciting for the program to get national attention after pulling the K-State upset.
“That was really great for our players,” Johnson said. “We talk about it all the time: You’ve got to have success to garner attention. … If your team’s not having success, nobody really pays attention to (individual accomplishments). Hopefully our guys got a taste of that and want to continue to get recognized and all that.
“It was a great moment in time and something that they’ll always remember.”
Northeastern State (1-3) is coming off a 103-82 loss to Missouri Western.
"I would say a lot better (than the record indicates)," Johnson said of the RiverHawks. "Northeastern has really good guards. ... They're a good team."
“The Tigers will close out the 2020 portion of their schedule against Rogers State at 4 p.m. Sunday at GMC.