GREAT FALLS -- After being near the bottom of the Eastern AA last season, the Great Falls CMR boys basketball team comes into this season relatively inexperienced. But the Rustlers do have a good idea what needs to improve to climb in the standings.
That inexperience is relative because the Rustlers do bring back some guys who saw big minutes last year, including junior Rogan Barnwell, who started as a sophomore. Barnwell’s encouraged by how the Rustlers amped up their defense in the second half of the season and expects that to continue.
"As the season progressed, we started to get better and better at our defense," Barnwell said. "And so now I think our man defense will be a lot stronger. And this year, we'll be able to work on our 1-3-1 (zone defense). So I'm looking forward to that."
And of course, good defense leads to offense, as the Rustlers will look to find success in an up-tempo style.
"We're definitely going to press a lot more this year. We want to be fast-paced. We want to move the ball, we want to get steals. We want to push it up the floor as much as we can," senior Tristan Suden said about the team's strengths. "Shooting, and our speed. we can get up and down the floor really fast and got great passers. Should be good."
Better shooting from outside could make a world of difference as well, and head coach John Cislo said the Rustlers spent a lot of time getting reps on the shooting machine this summer.
"We were down near the bottom last year in 3-point percentage," he said. "I think if we're patient and work together, we have enough guys that can shoot in the mid-30s to high-30s (percentages). I think we got some potential to have a couple guys shoot in the 40s."
But identifying areas for improvement is one thing. Making it work on the court is another, and with COVID preventing games before the new year, a lot of unknowns still exist for the Rustlers.
"Without games, we're kind of stuck in the position where we're trying to figure out lineups right now," Cislo said. "The nice thing is we have more practice than we've ever had before our first game, but we're still trying to figure out what our rotations are. Who's going to play? We don't have non-conference games to figure that out."