When a team is starting over like the 2016-2017 Northwest Byron Nelson’s boys basketball team is, then it’s understood that November and December are the months for experimentation.
The Bobcats (8-6) returned zero, zip, nada in returning starters from the 2015-2016 playoff team. Now in District 5-6A where it’s pretty unknown who is the favorite, these two months have offered Curran some hope that he can have a team that will contend for a postseason berth much less the district championship.
Plus, there’s a streak on the line. Nelson has never missed the playoffs in its history going back to when the school opened in 2009-2010. Following Tuesday’s home game against Keller Fossil Ridge, Nelson opens district play Friday at Euless Trinity.
“We weren’t young last year but we are this year,” Curran said. “I think we’re making progress and at the rate we’re going I think our best basketball is ahead of us.”
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The enthusiasm is fueled by this team advancing to the silver bracket finals against state ranked Round Rock McNeil before falling, 54-45.
“I really didn’t know what to expect but I’m pleased with where we’re at,” Curran said. “I’m encouraged by the amount of potential that we have on this team.”
Then there’s senior point guard Alphonso Hawkins. He’s healthy. He had a great debut against Flower Mound Marcus in 2015 when he scored 18 points and then battled knee problems. But health means that he can freely run the offense.
Hawkins has help from junior Trent Koehler. Koehler spent the 2015-2016 season with the junior varsity and can split time. Curran said he doesn’t mind if this point guard arrangement continues for the duration of the season.
“They both offer something different, so I think we’re in a good position there,” Curran said. “They’re going to make the right decisions and I think they give you a nice 1-2 punch. The will definitely make us a deeper team.”
Nelson, though, has length in the backcourt with the Young triplets, Braylen (6-2), Bryant (6-3) and Bryce (6-1). All have contributed in other roles especially on defense. Braylen is the scorer of the three reaching 20 points at least twice.
While Nelson will likely want to keep its games in 50s this year, there’s been enough development in the front court between senior 6-7 post Nils Huizenga and junior 6-8 post David Nzekwesi. On the verge of averaging a double double (10-plus points and rebounds), Huizenga had a career game against Fort Worth All Saints last week with 22 points and 18 rebounds. Curran said several Division II programs have offered, while UT-Arlington is showing interest.
Nzekwesi brings a nice outside shooting touch, so he has been able to draw defenders away from the basket and make them guard him. What Curran needs is a little more consistency and a little more confidence.
“Nils is just relentless,” Curran said. “He never stops. He’s our workhorse. The upside for him is that he’s on the glass every night. David is young but I think he can have a big year. He has so much going for him. But he’s going to have to bring it for us every night. It’s taken a little longer for him to develop. The skills are there.”