Varsity boys basketball looks to start season strong

Aro Majumder

Coming off a strong first year under head coach Robert Lucero, the varsity basketball team will be looking to take its game to the next level this season. Hays and Lake Travis once again field strong teams, but the Chaps are confident in its ability to contend for a championship.

“We just want to try and build off what the team did last year,” Lucero said. “When we ended the season in the spring, I felt really good. There was a good vibe in the gym, and everyone was working hard and competing. After the first full offseason I’ve had as head coach [at Westlake], I thought we got a little further ahead for starting off this season.”

Identity plays a massive role in how a team performs during the season, and it can usually have a direct correlation to its success and downfalls. Lucero worked to build that identity with the team last year, but with seven seniors lost to graduation, he knows that this year will be a fresh start.

“This team has its own challenges, but as a program there are some core things we do in our style of play,” Lucero said. “We’re going to guard in the [defensive] half-court; we’re going to try and play up-tempo, but then we also have to just get better at execution and late game stuff. Then we can take the next step and win the close games in District.”

Although District play hasn’t started yet, Lucero has seen high points on the offensive side of the ball and looks to match that with similar play on defense.

“One of our strengths is going to be our depth and versatility,” Lucero said. “I think this year’s team is going to be able to shoot the ball better than last year’s team. We just have to make sure this year’s team is as physical on defense and rebounding the ball as last year’s was.”

Lucero also has a multitude of things that he knows the team needs to work on if it is going to contend for a championship this year.

“We still have a long ways to go,” Lucero said. “We’re not very polished offensively; defensively we are still reactionary and not dictating. We can get a lot better, but I do feel comfortable that we’re going to have a deep team, and I think we’ll be able to play different lineups.”

With District play beginning Dec. 11 against Bowie, the team wants to be able to get off to a quick start.

“Knowing that any team in District can beat another on any given night, we have to be ready right from the beginning,” Lucero said. “There are some very good coaches in District that get their teams ready to play, so we have to make sure we match their intensity from the get-go.”

One of the biggest sticking points from last season is the importance of closing out games. Their failure to do so last year hurt their chances of getting a higher seed for playoffs, and the team will try not to repeat that again this year. Having the offseason to work on the fundamentals will open up more chances to get better at this during the season.

“This year, since we had the whole spring together, we’re a little further ahead situationally than last year,” Lucero said. “It’s a matter of us as coaches being prepared for different situations, and there are going to be certain things we’re better at in practice, so we can focus on some of those situational things more.”

Having a one-game-at-a-time mindset can seem cliché in sports, but that’s exactly how Lucero wants this season to play out.

“It’s all game-to-game,” Lucero said. “If you drop a couple games, you try to make sure you learn from those games to prepare for the next. For us, it’s a matter of every game presenting a new challenge. Win or lose, there are things that we can learn from each game.”

The team starts District play 7:30 p.m. Dec. 11 at home in the competition gym against Bowie High School.