The Glen Rose Tigers were a solid basketball team last year, but coach Wayne Roberts believes this year's crew is capable of more.
The Tigers went 15-15 last season, finishing third in district with a 6-4 record. They lost to Decatur in the first round.
"I think we will be a much-improved team this year," said coach Wayne Roberts. "We have a lot of depth, a philosophy we want to use involving pressing (defensively) and running; we're going to get a lot of shots up. We want to create turnovers and get a fast pace going."
Regarding team strengths, Roberts points to the aforementioned depth and the fact it's a senior-oriented team with substantial experience.
"This group plays great defense and we'll use a full-court press," Roberts said. "If we can improve offensively, I really think we'll surprise some people."
Roberts said injuries have slowed the Tigers up in recent years, but the coach is hopeful that bug won't bite as frequently in the months to come.
"Our weaknesses in recent years have been at the offensive end," Roberts said. "We hope stepping up the pace defensively will allow for open looks, even on quicker shots. If guys have an open shot, we want them to shoot it."
Roster in focus
The Tigers return four all-district players, including senior forward Ben Coppock, who was a first team selection a year ago.
"He's probably been our best overall scorer the last two years," Roberts said. "He's really improved through the offseason; he's a great jumper and has developed an outside shot."
Senior post Colton Bretton also took first team honors last season.
"Colton really improved last year and we look for him to be even better," the coach said. "He really developed a three-point shot, so as a post he can score inside or out."
Senior forward Cody Burtscher was a second team selection last year.
"Cody is a great athlete and one of our best outside shooters," Roberts said. "He's also a great defensive player."
Sophomore forward Hayden Holder was a second team selection last season.
"Hayden is a tremendous athlete," Roberts said. "We think he can be very successful in our press-and-run philosophy."
Other senior guards include Austin Gibson, Hayden Bach, Curry Mapes, Stetson Overton, Max Albro and Taylor Hansen. Roberts believes an improved Gibson could be a difference maker in the Tigers' season.
"We look for big things from Austin this year," Roberts said. "We think he's more aggressive after getting a year of varsity experience. We really need him to shoot the three ball well."
Bach and Mapes both have past varsity experience.
"This is Hayden's third year on varsity and he returns at point guard," Roberts said. "His shot has really come around, he's a great defensive player and I look for him to have a breakout year. Curry will also play some forward. He really shoots the three-ball well and I see his best season coming up."
Overton provides further positional versatility.
"Stetson will play point guard and shooting guard," Roberts said. "He can really shoot the ball; we just need him to be consistent about it. Max and Taylor give us even more depth at guard."
Other seniors include posts Marquis Holder, Justin Weatherley, Blake Kramer and forward Jake Pieper.
"Marquis should give us a lot of minutes off the bench," Roberts said. "He'll play post, but he's also worked extremely hard on his outside shot. We think our post players being able to shoot the three should give us an advantage.
"Justin can shoot the ball well from outside and he gives us a very physical presence. Blake gives us further depth at post, as does Jake at the forward position."
The team's juniors are forwards Colton Bumpas and Jeffery Harris, as well as guard Justin Potter.
"We need Colton to be a defensive threat, but I also hope his offensive game is coming around," Roberts said. "Jeffery is a very good outside shooter. He'll probably come off the bench and I hope for a strong season from him. We want to carry 15 guys this season, and I think Justin should be able to contribute at guard."
The Tigers will have every opportunity to hit their stride before district play begins on Jan. 11.
"We expect to be shorthanded for a while, because we have a good football team and we want them to stay busy as long as possible," Roberts said. "We have to take it a day at a time until we get those guys. Early in the season, the Van Tournament is always something we look forward to. We'll have our (Glen Rose) tournament and we host a Shootout as well.
"We have a great schedule with a lot of home games. Whatever the date is when we have everyone together, that's when we'll really get rolling."
As for 7-3A, Glen Rose won't be the favorite and Roberts is just fine with that.
"Stephenville will clearly be picked to win the district as the biggest school, plus they're very talented," he said. "This might be the best team they've had since I've been here. Alvarado made it to the regional tournament last year, so they'll probably be favored against us also. If our offense will gel, our defense has always kept us in games and hopefully we can turn the corner to compete for the top spot."
Roberts is looking for his team to fulfill its goals one step at a time.
"Our first goal is to win our first game," he said. "We'd like to win two tournaments and then build off of that. We'll do our best to win district and earn a playoff spot. Hopefully then we can win some playoff games and keep the season going."