ST. GEORGE — Everything in the Crimson Cliffs gym is brand new. There’s a shiny new floor, new basketballs and clean practice jerseys. And when it comes to the girls and boys basketball teams, both programs have a lot of unknowns, but they’re hoping to fly under the radar and surprise some people.
The girls team has a lot of younger players with little to no experience at the varsity level; however, head coach Kacee McArthur said she is going at the season step by step and waiting to see how her players will progress as the season goes on. There will be a learning curve for the Mustangs, but that experience will come as they play more games.
“I think for us, because we are so young and we are so new, it’s going to be a process,” McArthur said. “We’ve used these first few games to figure out some different things, but I think you’re going to see us grow and progress throughout the season as well. I do know we have a lot of athletic girls. We’ve got some really good big, strong girls too, so we’ll work to play to our advantages as much as we can.”
McArthur is trying to see what lineups work best together and what style of play will fit best for their roster. She said a lot of girls will get an opportunity to play.
In addition to being the first time most of their roster has played at the varsity level, most of their girls have also never played together, which has been a challenge for the Mustangs. However, Brooklyn Winget said she is enjoying the challenge.
“I think it’s been way fun since we’ve never played together,” Winget said. “It’s fun getting to know new girls and seeing what their strengths and their weaknesses are, learning from each other and making each other better.”
The Mustangs will face tough competition in their region, but McArthur said she wants her team to never give up.
“We’re going to work to play 32 minutes of every single game as hard as we can and improve every single game,” McArthur said. “I think we’re probably going to surprise some people.”
With everything being so new, this year’s team will have the opportunity that no other team in Crimson Cliffs history will have: They get to shape the program how they want it.
“I think it’s awesome that we’re the first team to create and establish girls basketball,” Winget said. “Older schools have their traditions and the same stuff they do every year, but we get to make that.”
Crimson Cliffs opens up region play with a 1-4 overall record and will take on Snow Canyon on the road in their first Region 9 game Wednesday at 7 p.m.
The boys basketball program is undergoing similar challenges as the girls program. Their players haven’t played together, they have a brand new coaching staff and there are definitely a lot of uncertainties. Head coach Kasey Winters said that’s why the job was appealing. He gets to start from scratch and build the program how he wants.
“It’s been really fun so far with the new gyms and new uniforms and all new kids,” Winters said. “We had a really good summer just trying to get to know each other and figure each other out a little bit. Now that the season has started we’ve hit the ground running a little bit.”
With the challenges comes the positives. People don’t know what to expect of the Mustangs. They don’t know what Winters is going to do or what style of basketball he prefers as a coach. Other teams might know the Mustang players, but they will be left in the dark for a lot of it.
“That’s something we plan on using to our advantage, hoping it takes some time for everyone to figure us out a little bit,” Winters said.
With new kids coming from various programs around the area, they are still learning how to play with each other, but the Mustangs worked out and played pickup games to help with that. Trei Rockhill, a transfer from Desert Hills, said he was originally on the fence about coming to Crimson Cliffs, but when he learned about the coaching staff and the kids who were going to be moving to the new school with him, he was excited.
“It’s been nothing but positivity, honestly. It’s been so much fun,” Rockhill said. “We all come from different schools, so it kind of makes us bond together even better.”
Rockhill’s play style as a guard will fit in well with what Winters is looking for out of his team. The Mustangs will look to run in transition and take advantage of the fact that they are a bit undersized compared to other teams in Region 9.
The inclusion of Danny Wade, Ryan Roundy and Jacob Nielsen makes for a nice core of players. They also have players with some experience at lower levels, but they’ll grow as the season moves along.
Winters will give the Mustangs a ton of room to make the reads that they should be making. They will not be robots, running sets to perfection. Winters has given them a basic motion set, but the players will be able to play out of it.
“We’re going to look to score in transition,” Winters said. “Our bigs can run, and we’ve got some shooters on the wing with guards that like to create. Once it does get into the half court we’re going to set a lot of ball screens and just kind of open it up for these guys and let them play.”
With regards to goals, Rockhill said the Mustangs are hopeful.
“We talked about region. We talked about state. There’s nothing that we can’t accomplish in this first year,” he said.
The Mustangs beat Enterprise in their only preseason game but open up region play at home against Snow Canyon also Wednesday at 7 p.m.
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