The Newman Catholic boys are hoping to run the court under new head coach Jerry Gatton.
The Knights are a team made up of athletes, and while Gatton hasn’t changed much of the program from the previous years, he has put an increased emphasis on conditioning.
“We’ll be very athletic, that’s the one thing,” coach Gatton said. “We won’t have great size.”
Junior Brady Gatton hopes that the emphasis on athleticism and fitness will noticeably translate on the court.
“The practices have been pretty intense,” Gatton said. “We’re going to be a little more fast-tempo offense, more pushing the ball up the court, looking for fast scores instead of somewhat set offenses.”
Senior Justin Fausnaugh has even emphasized it in his personal game. Last year, Fausnaugh was the top 3-point shooter on the team, making 36 on the year. Now, he wants to change it up.
“I’m working on driving to the basket,” Fausnaugh said. “I think we’re faster and we have a lot more athletes and we play better together. A lot of us have good speed and I think that’s going to be a big change from this year to last year.”
The focus on athleticism is to play to Newman’s strengths, and with a faster pace, the Knights hope to rack up more numbers against taller opponents.
“We’re a pretty even-keel team,” Gatton said. “I stress having lot of guys in double digits, not high digits, and I keep telling them if we can get six to seven guys in double digits every night it’s going to be pretty tough to beat us.”
But that fast-tempo offense stems from a strong defense, another focus for most teams as they mix up their court rosters.
“We want to be a defensive team because defense leads directly into our offense,” Fausnaugh said.
For Newman, a team which returns seven seniors and brings in nine juniors, it’s nearly an even amount of experience and new faces.
Junior Josh Fitzgerald is among the top defensive performers with 54 turnovers and 50 steals last year. Gatton also led the team with 177 total rebounds, and racked up nine blocks and 35 steals.
“We’re going to be good team, don’t overlook us because we’re going to come up and play every night,” Fausnaugh said.