BOULDER – When the bell rings at Jefferson High School in the middle of winter, people don’t run out of the building. That is mainly because there is an obvious danger to slip on the inevitable layer of ice on the pathways. Without running, students hurry to wipe their windshields and try, usually with difficulty, to dig their cars out of the snow that collected around while they were in school.
Jefferson’s boys basketball players head to the locker room to get their sneakers on. As they walk the hallways toward the gymnasium they look out through the cold window at the last rays of sunshine, knowing it will be dark before they leave the gym. Coach Clint Layng blows his whistle and it’s time to tune in.
Layng coaches both football and boy’s basketball at Jefferson. Last season the Panthers earned a trip to the Class B state tournament, playing consecutive double-overtime games on their last day of season.
Jefferson was predominantly a down-low team last year, which means the returning guards are used to looking into the paint for their first option. It’s likely because Layng has engrained it into their brains to do so.
This season the coach is light on seniors and will expect the young players to learn quickly the ways of this new team.
“It’s fine, I’m actually kind of excited about it knowing I’ll have most of these guys for two straight years on varsity,” he said. “I think they will only get better as they get more experienced.”
Last year’s team finished fourth in the state with a feed-the-paint mentality. With their major post player, Trase LeTexier, graduated and such a force of a team echoing from last year, practice is all about breaking habits.
“We have to continue to get better every week and we need Noah (Fader) and Josh (Eckmann) to step up,” Layng said. “They have to take the roles of the guys that graduated last year. These guys were there. They were part of the district championship and divisional championship and the team that was at the state tournament so they have a lot of experience. They will have to lead the way and other guys will catch up as we go.
Noah Fader is a tall, tough junior power wing and is looking to do what he can to be the steady rock for what’s bound to be a young and nervous team this year.
“We are all new to this so we’re trying to get used to trying to fix the problems we have,” he said. “I’m just looking to do what I can do to get some points and hopefully push the team a little bit. Hopefully I can be the calmer on on the team, get everyone to slow down and look to calm any nerves.”
The effectiveness of the transformation from a post-oriented team to a shooting squad will rely on how much time is spent in the gym. Luckily for Layng, Fader loves spending time in the gym.
“I just like the feeling of it,” he said. “Playing makes me feel like out there, I can kind of be someone else.”