By Rich Winter
With a tough opener, Little Wound on Friday in St. Francis, and a rugged Region 7 slate of competition, St. Francis boys basketball coach Rich Crow Eagle is optimistic heading into the season.
The Warriors, coming off a 6-15 season in 2015 have a number of key returners that has Crow Eagle thinking his team could be in contention by the end of the season.
“I feel that we do have the potential to be one of the top teams in our region but we seem to have some commitment issues on showing up to practice, but overall the kids are working hard this start of the season.”
Senior twins, Shane and Thane Witt return along with senior Daniel Eagle Road and junior, Mahpiya Horse Looking, and others.
While the Warriors have been smallish the last few seasons, Crow Eagle has some height to work with this season.
“We have a different look this year - this year we added a little bit of height to the team, this should help in cleaning up the defensive boards a little bit,” Crow Eagle said. “Other then that we could be a very deep team that shouldn’t drop much with substitutions.”
Crow Eagle mentions Isaac Walker, Dave Espinoza II, Aaron White Bird, Treon
Eastman and Jordan Kills In Water as some of the bigs that will be working for varsity minutes.
While the Witt twins will likely be among the better guards in the area, Crow Eagle knows he’ll need contributions from other guys.
“I feel Danny (Eagle Road) is one of the better perimeter shooters we have and Piya (Mahpiya Horse Looking) will be slashing and be a taking it to the hole-strong type player,” Crow Eagle said. “Both of those guys know what we expect of them defensively.”
St. Francis had a solid junior varsity squad a season ago and it is that influx of now junior and senior talent that has Crow Eagle chomping at the bit to get at Little Wound on Friday.
“I feel that we have the individual talent to compete with top of the region no doubt, our goal is to try to get these talents to mesh well as a cohesive unit,” Crow Eagle said. “I feel once we can put that together CONSISTENTLY, we shall be a fun, entertaining team to watch.”
In the one to watch category, Crow Eagle mentions the high-flying Isaac Walker as someone we’ll be talking about late in the season.
“Isaac Walker 6-foot-4 Jr. didn’t really play all that much the previous years. He has grown and matured into a fine young man and he will be counted on to clean up the defensive boards and hopefully have a few put backs on the offensive glass - heck you might even see him out on top of the press.”
St. Francis opens the season Friday by taking on Little Wound. The Mustangs are the No. 2 seed at the upcoming Lakota Nation Invitational tournament.
St. Francis is seeded 10th at Lakota Nation and the Warriors will battle No. 7 seeded Crow Creek in one of the more eagerly anticipated first-round match-ups of the entire tournament.