Robin Lighthizer, shown here at practice in Hayden on Wednesday afternoon, was the assistant coach of the Tigers boys basketball team. This season, he has stepped up into the role of head coach.

Photo by Brian Ray

Robin Lighthizer, shown here at practice in Hayden on Wednesday afternoon, was the assistant coach of the Tigers boys basketball team. This season, he has stepped up into the role of head coach.

Hayden hoops team and new coach size up competition

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2007-08 schedule

Hayden High School boys basketball

7:30 p.m. today vs. Rangely

7 p.m. Dec. 4 at Baggs

Time TBA Dec. 6 to 8 at Meeker Tournament

4 p.m. Dec. 15 vs. North Park

8:30 p.m. Dec. 20 vs. Soroco

7:30 p.m. Jan. 18 vs. West Grand

5:30 p.m. Jan. 19 at Meeker

4:30 p.m. Jan. 21 vs. Steamboat JV

7 p.m. Jan. 25 at North Park

6:30 p.m. Feb. 1 at Paonia

5:30 p.m. Feb. 2 vs. Plateau Valley

7:30 p.m. Feb. 8 at Soroco

4 p.m. Feb. 9 at West Grand

7 p.m. Feb. 12 vs. Baggs

8:30 p.m. Feb. 15 vs. Grand Valley

7:30 p.m. Feb. 16 vs. Rangely

Feb. 29 to March 1 Districts at Paonia

— There must be something in the Hayden water. The Hayden High School teams just keep growing. Robin Lighthizer can't explain the phenomenon. Lighthizer took over the boys basketball coaching responsibilities this year from Shawn Baumgartner and jokes that he never thought he would have to deal with the "problem" of too many students coming out to play for the Tigers.

Yet, heading into Hayden's opening game of the season - it hosts Rangely at 7:30 tonight - Lighthizer was leading nearly 30 Tigers through ball-handling drills at Thursday's practice. He foresees having 31 players out after the holiday break for a program that had only 18 show up last year.

"Varsity-wise, you hope to try and get maybe six or seven guys and bring some JV players in," Lighthizer said. "Now we have eight strong varsity players, four more we can suit up and a couple of kids knocking at the door."

Chuck Hines is one of the Tigers' three returning starters and one of its four senior members.

"We're looking better - with a lot more kids out, there's more choice," Hines said. "You've got to work harder, because everybody wants a varsity spot."

Some of the spots are still up for grabs, but one spot Lighthizer was certain about was that of senior point guard Jordan Williams - returning as the team's veteran pacesetter and top outside shooting threat. At shooting guard, Lighthizer may look to sophomore Murphy Smartt or junior Zach Engle, but the coach has a deep talent pool with "a lot of young potential" as well as junior Billy Zehner waiting to return from a leg injury.

Inside, Lighthizer can rely on senior center Brad Parrott with help at the post from Hines and junior Zach Barnes. Junior Jeremy Engle and senior Garrett Murchison, returning from a two-year absence from the court, also will be scrapping it out at forward when the Tigers are looking for tough rebounds.

"We've changed our whole offense, so now we can pound the inside or readjust if we need to shoot the three," Lighthizer said, excited with the prospect of taking this team, which is fortunate with size in player height and roster numbers, on the road against the Western Slope League's toughest opponents. "It's a more fast-paced team this year; we just have to be able to push the ball without creating turnovers."

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