By Rich Winter
With the Lakota Nation Invitational rapidly approaching, the No. 6 seeded Todd County boys host Valentine Friday in their only test prior to LNI.
The Falcons, coming off an 11-10 season in 2015, and a notoriously slow starting team, will look to build with a number of returners and an offense that was installed mid-season a year ago.
“We’ve got ten guys that played varsity minutes last year, they all know the offense from JV on up to varsity,” Mike Hammer, Falcon coach said. “Now, we’re just perfecting the offense, and working on some new wrinkles.”
While the Falcons appear to be loaded at guard, seniors, Weston Frazier and Loren Dragg, both in the 6-foot-2 to 6-foot-3 range will have to do some damage in the paint.
“Offensively, they are a tough guard, they have good feet and they are quick,” Hammer said. “Loren can jump out of the gym where Wes is more of a back-to-the- basket guy.”
While Frazier and Dragg can both run and both have good mid-range games, Hammer knows they’ll have match-up difficulties if they run into a tough post.
“Defensively, we have to help dig with our guards and get help from the weak side,” Hammer said.
The Falcons return a pair of guards, seniors, John Hacker and Umpo Kills In Sight that are quick, experienced and ready to roll.
“Hacker - Gifted athlete, fast, jumps, quick feet and hands. He’s got a motor he’s an outside threat and he can get to the rim,” Hammer said.
“Umpo Kills In Sight - Fast, goes full speed and one of the best on-ball defenders on the team. Dangerous when leaking out in transition,” Hammer said.
The Falcon program got a jolt of experience when senior, Lucas Iron Heart came home to play his senior season in Todd County after going to state with White River in each of the last three seasons.
“Lucas comes from a great program and had a great coach in Eldon Marshall,” Hammer said. “His role in White River was to shoot the three and play some D. He’s bought into the system, he understands the offensive sets and he’s coming from a winning program and bringing that to us.”
Sophomore Aiden Biardie led the Falcons in scoring and fresh off a summer of playing basketball with his Pentagon team in Sioux Falls, Hammer says Bizardie has improved immensely from a year ago.
“One of the best sophomores in the state, regardless of class,” Hammer said. “He’s smart, a hard-worker, understands the game and he’s improved so much from last year. He makes his teammates better, pushes them, motivates them. He’s a sophomore with a lot of experience.”
While the starters will likely come from the players already named, Hammer has what he calls a bunch of junk-yard-dogs coming off the bench that are hungry for minutes.
Gavyn Spotted Tail, Daniel Morrison, Tristan Shaw, Skyler Yellow Eagle and Jesse Allen all have experience, all are good teammates, and all are willing to do whatever is necessary for the team to be successful.
A couple players Hammer talked about making an impact by seasons end are Mark Rogers, Brendan Marshall and Sievert, a transfer from Little Wound.
Hammer compared Marshall to former Falcon, Chris Roubideaux that blocked a 3-point attempt in a region final that sent Todd County to the state tournament.
On what his team needs to do or improve upon to be in contention for Region 7 supremacy by the end of the season, Hammer authored this.
“Every possession we have to not take for granted. Each possession is valuable and if we don’t take it like that we’ll lose the game,” Hammer said.
The Falcons play McLaughlin in the first round of Lakota Nation.