Potential brings so much excitement and yet so much skepticism.
Northwest boys basketball coach Mike Hatch has the optimism that this 2016-2017 team can have the unprecedented season much like what the football team enjoyed. Northwest basketball has been to the playoffs in six of Hatch’s first eight seasons. It advanced to the Class 6A Region I quarterfinals in 2015-16 and finished 23-12.
But expectations are ramped up for this squad because of the potential. The Texans have moved down from Class 6A to 5A. Before this week started, Northwest was 4-2 but was playing without a complete roster. Now, that junior post Darrell Simpson and forward Carson Hickman have returned from football, this is the team that has a chance to take Northwest to where it’s never gone.
“We have to have a lot of things happen,” Hatch said. “We’re going to have to grow and mature and have some things fall into place like we saw last year. But if we do that, then we can have a chance to make a deep run.”
The start comes from sophomore guard Avery Anderson, who is coming off a dynamic first year on the varsity. At 6-1, Anderson has turned into a difficult guard as he’s averaging more than 20 points per game.
Already holding an offer from SMU, Anderson used the summer to become more polished attacking the rim and becoming a more consistent perimeter shooter. Any team scouting the Texans know that the first priority is to limit, stop or shut down Anderson. Whether that can happen is another story.
“What makes him fun is that he’s very coachable,” Hatch said. “He cares about his teammates. Everything he does is to make us better. We have to teach him a little more about the other intangibles. But he definitely can get there for us.”
Simpson’s 6-8, 300-pound frame now gives the Texans that presence around the rim that’s going to create some matchup issues. Hatch believes Simpson could be a consistent double figure producer (points, rebounds). Part of Simpson’s strengths are his hands because he can use them so well around the basket. He can catch entry passes without fighting the ball.
Northwest appears to have found a second and third scorer to Anderson in senior guard Tucker Dunn (5-11) and freshman guard Julien Smith (6-1). Both have been in double figures a couple of times. Dunn played with the junior varsity in 2015-2016.
“At first, we wanted Tucker to just move the ball and get a shot here and there,” Hatch said. “But he has a lot of self-confidence. Julien just has a scorer’s mentality. He’s not afraid of anybody.”
What teams look like in November to what they look like in February needs to be different in a good way. The Texans faced more tests Tuesday against Haltom and this weekend at the San Angelo tournament.
“We feel like that by Christmas we’ll have everything in place,” Hatch said. “We can be a really good offensive team. But it’s going to be about defense and doing the little things that will help the season.”