GREAT FALLS — There will be a lot of new and young faces on the floor this year for the Great Falls Central Mustangs.
Earlier in the year, Great Falls Central announced that Chris Daniel will be the head coach of the boys and girls basketball teams. Out of his 22 players between both teams, eight of them are still in the eighth grade. Since his teams are so young, Daniel has geared his practices heavily toward teaching the fundamentals.
“We are learning a lot every day. We’re trying to get better, trying to get those fundamentals down,” said Daniel. “We've got a lot to work on fundamental-wise. If we get those down, we’re trying to just be the team that nobody wants to play at the end of the year.”
Not only are his teams extremely young, but most of them have never shared the floor together in a varsity game. The boys have six high school kids mixed in with six middle school kids, and the girls have a total of 10 players with half of them being new to the team.
“We've got a lot of drills designed to get these kids talking to each other. A lot of it is just communicating with each other. These kids haven’t played together, so it’s communicating with each other, telling each other what they’re doing,” said Daniel. “It’s different when you have a group of kids that have played together for four years and they kind of know, ‘Hey, this is what I’m going to do off of this screen.’ These kids are still learning that stuff.”
“Pretty much everyone is new. None of us have played with each other for more than a year,” said senior Maggie Bowman. “It’s pretty different, but we’ve already had some chemistry grown, so I think that’s good.”
The seniors understand the challenges of having a youthful team while competing in a competitive league, but they retain a positive mindset when thinking about their season goals.
“Really just work hard and have fun. That’s all I really want as a senior,” said Kellie Macdonald. “Going to divisionals or making it far in districts would be pretty good, too.”
“Just improve. Get the younger kids ready for their upcoming seasons and just do the best we can with what we got,” said Parker Keatts.
“I’m pretty confident as long as we go out and compete. You can’t win a game if you don't compete. As long as we go out there and compete with each other, play like a family, I think we should be pretty good," said Steven Triplett.
If there was one way above any other that would help the Mustangs be successful, coach Daniel has the answer.
“Our thing is stick together. We’re going to be our own best friends," he said. "We have to be there for each other whether times are going good or times are going tough. We’re going to be our own best friends and help each other up when we’re down. We’ll go through some struggles, but we’re going to go through some great times, too, and we’re going to have a lot of fun doing it."
Both teams will begin their seasons on Friday in Rudyard. The boys play first at 4 p.m. against Sunburst and the girls will follow immediately with their matchup against North Star.