Tigers look ahead to play as cohesive unit

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— Shawn Baumgartner didn't want to know anything about last year's basketball season, so he didn't ask. The first-year coach hasn't even brought it up.

All Baumgartner told the 24 kids he has out for the 2002 season was that their eyes are in the front of their heads to look forward, not back.

Last year, the Tigers didn't win a game, losing by a combined score of 1137-534. Though Baumgartner hasn't inquired about last season's positives and negatives, he said little would be the same.

For one, Hayden has undergone an offensive overhaul. Instead of relying on the fast break to score, the Tigers will work more out of a half-court set.

"We will slow it down and get a good shot and play good defense," Baumgartner said.

He said that is his philosophy and it has little to do with the personnel he has, but he believes he has convinced the kids out this season that his system will work.

"We've had success in practice," Baumgartner said.

The Tigers have four returning starters from last year's team, but Baumgartner and assistant coach Robin Lighthizer aren't guaranteeing anyone a starting spot. Baumgartner expects Hayden to play as a cohesive unit, which some returning players say is a quality the Tigers needed.

"We're working a lot better as a team," sophomore Evan Hilling said.

Teammate Chris Frentress said Baumgartner held individual meetings with the players to discuss what each kid's role would be with this year's basketball team. In the past, Frentress said, it seemed like players did whatever they wanted.

That won't be tolerated this season, and Frentress said he and his teammates are receptive to the idea of designating kids as scorers, ball handlers and rebounders though all will be called on to do a little of each over the course of the season.

"It's a lot more exciting," Frentress said. "We have a lot of players that know how to play team ball."

The additions of Rangely, Meeker and Paonia toughen the boys' half of the Western Slope league this season, but the Tigers, a relatively young squad hree seniors, five juniors, five sophomores and 11 freshmen are hoping their new system will frustrate even the most veteran of teams.

Baumgartner said he doesn't care if his team takes two minutes to get a quality shot, he's looking for perfect execution, and Baumgartner said nothing annoys a running team more than an opponent like Hayden that likes to slow the game down r a young team like Hayden with nothing to lose.

The Tigers open the season Dec. 3 at Moffat County. Their home opener is against Baggs, Wyo., on Dec. 6. The league opener is against Paonia Dec. 10.

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