Ryan coach Bryce Overstreet stalked down the court in his navy blue shirt, hands on his hips, as his team practiced getting past a full-court press in one of the many items on the agenda for Thursday’s practice.
Varsity players in white jerseys swarmed young Raiders in red jerseys, with Overstreet stopping play to provide discipline and correct mistakes.
When Ryan travels to face Lewisville at 7:30 tonight, the Raiders will begin a battle with five District 5-5A opponents for the district’s four playoff spots.
Overstreet said he doesn’t know if being in a district with smaller teams helps or hurts his squad.
“You have less teams that you have to beat in order to get into the playoffs, but you can’t excuse the bump up to 5A,” Overstreet said. “The other five teams in this district are very good basketball teams. The overall strength of this district is better than what we’ve competed in.”
The “bump” looks more like a mountain for a team moving up to Class 5A for the first time since 2005. Back then, Overstreet was in his third year as head coach and had a team that lost 10 seniors after reaching the playoffs.
This year, the Raiders are in a similar situation. The Raiders (13-6) are moving up from 4A after the unlikeliest of runs to the state tournament last season, when Ryan lost to Houston Yates in the semifinals.
Senior guards Montarius Banks and Gilbert Jackson are the only two returning Raiders who received significant playing time last season.
Jackson is averaging a team-high 13.1 points per game, while Banks is second at 12.2 points per contest. Those are the only two players averaging over eight points.
“We don’t have all of our stars that we had last year, so we have to work together on defense so we can make offensive buckets,” Banks said. “We’re not going to put that many points up a game, so we have to sit down and play defense.”
The teams Ryan will face in district play include reigning 5A champion Flower Mound Marcus, which Ryan will play Jan. 22.
However, the Marcus team that won the state title hardly resembles this year’s team. The Marauders graduated 12 seniors and lost head coach Danny Henderson to Duncanville.
Hebron enters district play ranked sixth in Class 5A by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches.
Ryan’s nondistrict schedule featured several 3A and 4A opponents.
“We’ve been in some games against solid opponents and we’ve played well,” Overstreet said. “It’s just a matter of us doing that on a consistent basis. Starting on Friday, every team is good. Every team is bigger, stronger and faster, and we have to execute on a nightly basis.”
Jackson, the starting point guard, said the team needs to improve when it comes to consistently shooting the ball well. But Jackson also said the Raiders have the speed to play solid defense.
Jackson said that if the Raiders execute everything perfectly for the next 10 games they will win the district title.
“Worst-case scenario, if we play bad, we’ll probably come in last,” Jackson said. “That’s all it is. That’s how good our district is.”
BEN BABY can be reached 940-566-6869. His e-mail address is email@example.com .
RYAN BOYS’ DISTRICT 5-5A SCHEDULE
at Flower Mound
at Flower Mound Marcus
Flower Mound Marcus