HELENA -- As high school basketball teams head into the Christmas break, they would normally have around four games under their belts and likely three to four times as many practices. This season, the COVID-19 pandemic pushed the beginning of winter sports back, eliminated non-conference matchups and levied restrictions on how coaches can run their practices. Helena Capital boys basketball head coach Guy Almquist has more than two decades of coaching experience, but, according to him, he's effectively been back to Square One in the early stages of this season.
"This might be my 23rd year coaching, might as well be my first," said Almquist with a chuckle. "I mean, this has been a completely different year. In terms of even how you pick teams, how you prepare for practice. So, your preparation is completely different, and the season's going to be completely different."
Facing the new challenge of trying to coach through a pandemic, Almquist also has an equally new roster. With the graduation of players like Parker Johnston, Shane Haller, Bridger Grovom and Trevor Swanson, Almquist returns just two players with a good bit of varsity experience in Braden Koch and Malachi Syvrud. With the factors above compounding on one another, Almquist said the game plans they'll deploy when games start in January will more than likely be simple.
"We only have two guys back who have really played much varsity, so we've got a new team. We've got a new group. We've got guys who are on this year's team that were varsity last year, JV last year and sophomore team last year," said Almquist. "Really, this group hasn't played together much, and when you're coming off a summer where you didn't get much opportunity, it's tough, in terms of the five-on-five aspect, trying to get to be a cohesive unit."
The Capital boys will now get a few days off for the Christmas holiday before they jump back into practices ahead of their Jan. 7 season opener in Butte.