Young doesn’t even do the North Nodaway Mustangs justice with how inexperienced of group that coach Michael Trautz has this year.
An inexperienced roster got more so during the football district semifinals when sophomore Aydan Blackford had his collarbone broken against East Atchison.
Blackford led the team in scoring last season with 13.2 points per game and shot 36 percent from 3-point range. He is expected to be out until Christmas break.
“I need to get down and play defense,” Blackford said. “I also need to help my team out, because last year, I thought I was more of a ‘me’ player instead of helping the team out to get better.”
The point guard also led the team in assists and steals last year and is focused on coming back strong this season.
“I was pretty excited about this basketball team this year, because in the summer we worked really hard to improve,” Blackford said. “Hopefully, I have a fast recovery and when I come back we all play as a team and have good chemistry.”
While Blackford is sidelined, it gives Trautz a chance to see some of his other players step up. Junior Jeremiah Dobbins and sophomore Ethan Fry are two of the guards who will see bigger roles this season.
“We are going to see if we can develop a couple of our younger kids who haven’t played guard before like Ethan Fry or Jeremiah Dobbins and see if they can carry that load until Aydan gets back,” Trautz said. “Even if we struggle, we should come out the other side even stronger as a team.”
Sophomore Brice Trimble and freshman Mason Richardson are two young players who will be thrust into big roles early on this season.
“Brice Trimble has been working really hard,” Blackford said. “He has always been a good shooter, he just has to get a lot of confidence in himself, and go out and make plays.”
With Blackford sidelined, the most experience the Mustangs return is junior post Damian Dailey.
“I see a lot of potential in our team the next two years,” Dailey said.
While Dailey is a post play now, he has guard skills that he developed before a growth spurt made him the tallest player on the team.
“He was 5-11 during his freshman year and then he shot up four inches during the summer,” Trautz said. “He didn’t have any post skills, so I think you’ll going to see a massive jump because we’ve really worked at refining his post skills.”
Last season, Dailey averaged 5.2 points and 5.5 rebounds a game. He led the team with a 43 percent shooting clip.
“From last year’s experience, I’m learning that I’m going to have to step up and try and be the big man on our team and do what I can do,” Dailey said.
“This is only my second year of being a post, so from last year’s experience, I feel like this year I’ve gotten a lot better.”
While Trautz realizes this team still has a lot of building to do, he is excited about the group he has in his second season as head coach.
“This year, we are trying to — with our young core of athletes — become a more fundamentally sound team and change the emphasis of how we play,” Trautz said.
North Nodaway played North Harrison to open the season on Tuesday.
They are the seventh seed in next week’s PVI Tournament will face St. Joseph Christian in Monday’s first round at 6 p.m. They play either Nodaway Valley or Union Star in the second round. Both games are in Burlington Junction.
“I think as a team, we have an interesting thing because we don’t have any returning seniors,” Trautz said. “We don’t have any returning seniors. We have a two-year run and we’ve talked about that. This year’s goal is we’d like to change the culture.
“We aren’t really focused on wins and losses. We are focused on night in and night out ‘are we a physical, fundamental team that is hard to play?’ Because the wins will follow that naturally.”