LONGMONT — Last year's Longmont boys basketball team had an unprecedented level of leadership, cohesion and buy-in to a shared mission.
That resulted in a Class 4A state championship for the Trojans.
But now the Trojans face the challenge of recreating that championship atmosphere, and doing that with a very different mix of players.
"I think the biggest thing is that we had two really strong seniors that left the program," Trojans head coach Jeff Kloster said. "One was a tremendous defensive catalyst (Caden Dion) for us. He was a kid who was undersized but would battle. Just the toughness that he brought will be missed. Then we had Luke Johnson, who had all of the basketball IQ you could ever want as a coach. He played both ends of the floor and he was so consistent that you never had to worry about that.
"When you lose two seniors like that, this year's seniors are now searching for how they will define this team. We're now looking to them to define how this team will play and we're also looking to them to provide that consistency. It's all about creating that identity and understanding how dependent they all are on each other, and learning how to play to each of our players' strengths."
A 20-point scorer despite being a pass-first point guard, a strong defensive player as well as being an uncommonly intelligent and instinctive player, Johnson was named Player of the Year by BoCoPreps.com and nearly every other publication in Colorado. Replacing Johnson's statistics won't be easy, but players like Dallas Dye (7.6 ppg), Brady Renck (7.1 ppg) and Oakley Dehning, who hit the game-winner in last season's title game, and others, are likely up to the challenge. Replacing the consistency he brought to the Trojans' system will be much more difficult.
Longmont boys basketball program, however, has been one of the best in the state for a long time and for good reason. Each year's team seems to find a way to fill the holes left by the last, and Kloster and the Trojans are working hard to do just that.
"I think the process has to stay the same," Kloster said. "It's the expectation that we keep doing what we've always been about. It's about bringing your lunch pail every day to practice and always trying to get better. The really great programs are never satisfied. It's been our philosophy throughout the years that we're never satisfied. If you're not getting better, you're getting worse. That's what we expect from everyone."
The Trojans open the season on the road Wednesday against Erie.