Silver Creek head boys basketball coach Bob Banning has been around athletics long enough to know that a bad season opener does not guarantee a bad season.
That why he's being patient with this year's Raptors, who struggled offensively during a 61-38 loss to a tough Mead Mavericks squad in their season opener on Tuesday. While the Raptors far from shot the lights out on Tuesday, it's worth noting that this team graduated four of its top five scorers after last season, and that those five players accounted for 36.8 of last year's 60.2 points per game.
I haven't been around as long as Banning, who is in his 16th year at Silver Creek. But I've been around him long enough to know that he wouldn't say things like this (see below) unless he has some reason to believe it.
"What I saw in the offseason was that we have a number of players who are ready to step into those roles and can do it," Banning said. "I'm not saying we completely didn't do that tonight, I just think as a group we didn't show ourselves really well tonight. I'm not going to point fingers at myself or my players. We just never got comfortable and I know that we're a much better basketball team than what we showed."
The Raptors return senior Anthony Kasper, who averaged 9.2 points last season. But after Kasper, no player on the current roster averaged more than sophomore Trent Dykema (3.5 ppg). The Raptors were also facing a quality opponent in Mead, which took the lead early and forced them to chase.
To be fair, the first half was simply rough. The Raptors scored just 11 points, including a scoreless second quarter, before halftime. But after shooting just 19 percent in the first half, the Raptors shot 46 percent in the second half, during which senior Andrew Rapp scored all of his team-high nine points.
What the Raptors clearly do have is length, height and athleticism. Banning thinks they're primarily searching for some confidence and swagger as they each take on greater responsibility.
More from Banning:
"I'm not sure if it was first-game jitters because we had a really good summer and we played well in fall ball," he calmly said after the opener. "Maybe we're still adjusting to new responsibilities and lots of guys having to jump into a new role. In the first half, we missed a ton of shots inside. But in the second half, we started to play a little harder and loosen up, those shots started to fall and it got better.
"Defensively and offensively, we just didn't execute many of our sets and patterns. When we did, we looked more like the team I'm used to seeing and it was fruitful."
I'm not picking the Raptors to pull off a miraculous comeback run to a championship like the New England Patriots, who were left for dead through the first quarter of last season. But I do think the openness of their lineup makes their progression an interesting storyline to track this season.
If Banning thinks so, I'm willing to agree that someone on the roster, maybe everyone, will step up eventually.