The Heart River Cougars are entering the 2018-19 season without their best returner.

Posted On: 11/30/18 6:03 PM

The Heart River Cougars are entering the 2018-19 season without their best returner.
The Heart River Cougars are entering the 2018-19 season without their best returner.

Heart River fans remember current Junior Lane Chruszch’s knee injury during last year’s Region 7 tournament. Chruszch’s injury means Heart River will start their 2018-2019 campaign without their best returner.  On top of losing Chruszch Heart River also has to replace 10-year head coach Greg Pruitt

Pruitt switched programs and is, now, leading Glen Ullin/Hebron. Erik Klein is taking the role of head coach for Heart River this year. Klein’s first big challenge will be helping his team find a way to replace Chruszch and a graduating class of six seniors. 

Klein said losing Churszch for the early part of the season hurts.

“Lane is going to be missed early in the season. Lane is a great basketball player. I’ve had a chance to watch Lane in the past and he’s got a great attitude. We are definitely anxious for Lane’s return, to say the least. But we are going to have other kids who are going to be able to step into that role,” Klein said. 

Key Players Coming Back 

Cauy Shypkoski, a 6-foot senior, is one of those players who will have to step up. Klein said he wants Shypkoski to be aggressive this year and continue being a great leader. 

“He saw a lot of varsity time last year. Cauy is going to be asked to do a lot of things offensively,  being aggressive as far as getting to the rim.  Cauy is going to be a nice player. I really like how he handles himself around the rest of the team, there are a lot of leadership aspects there.  And that’s nice to see,” Klein said. 

Tryston Gregory, a 6-2 senior forward, and will be another player who can help the team reach their goals this year.  Klein said Gregory isn’t overly big but has quick feet and hustles. 

“He’s not an overly big kid but he’s quick on his feet and an absolute workhorse,” Klein said. 

Another Heart River player to watch for will be Jett Mattson. Mattson has a tough task this year, having to replace Caleb Chruszch, last year’s starting point guard. Chruszch was one of the region’s best point guards and played with constant intensity. 

Klein said Mattson has accepted the challenge to fill the point guard role well. 

“He has really come into the role of being a ball-handler for us and he’s taken charge for us,” Klein said.

Scheme Changes

One of the biggest challenges Klein and his team are facing is time.  Klein took the job in late August, which is why he didn’t get much offseason time to start implementing his style of play.  Without a full offseason, it will be interesting to see if Heart River can undergo a full schematic change. 

Klein said he’s hoping to be a high-low half-court team, which requires a lot of patience.  Klein said he wants to get to the rim and avoid overusing the 3-point shot. 

“One thing we are going to emphasize this year is patience. We are going to play with some pace but patience in the half-court set is going to be really important to us. We want to be able to be successful at attacking the rim and putting points on the board other than perimeter shooting,” Klein continued. 

“We’re going to work the high-low action a lot. It’s important to me. I want our guys taking the highest percentage shots that we can.  I know we don’t have a ton of size but I still think we need to attack the rim, work the post area and try taking the higher percentage shot instead of the 3-pointer, typically a lower percentage shot.”

Defense

On defense, Klein is thinking his team will give differing looks depending on an opponent’s strengths.  His main goals on defense are to get back and force jump shots. 

“As far as the defensive package we are probably going to be really diverse. It’s really going to depend on who we are playing,” Klein said. “Well, that kind of goes back to what we are going to do defensively. We aren’t going to give up a lot of points on transition.  We’re going to do our best to keep the offense in front of us. We want to be able to control the tempo of the basketball game. “

Heart River is changing from a high pace,  and high-intensity full-court pressure team. Under Klein, the focus is being patient and picking spots to attack.  Right now, Klein feels like the players are buying into what he’s preaching. 

“The buy-in from the players has been phenomenal, so far. As a coach, I can’t ask for better effort or buy-in. Everything I’m asking them to do, they are doing it without hesitation and without a ton extra on my part to get them to do it,” Klein said. 

Heart River will start the season on Dec. 11  with the Rough Rider Invite, which Dickinson Trinity is hosting.