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Early perseverance could set the Cougars up for a solid season

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Cade Wyant (3) dribbling the ball.
Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press
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DICKINSON — The Heart River Cougars’ half-court offense is far from flashy, but has garnered a lot of attention for being a well-oiled machine of five players all on the same wavelength.

Injuries and sickness have put a damper on the Heart River Cougars roster in the early part of the season and have limited their successes, but head coach Erik Klein said that the long injury list is not a new experience for the program.

Last season ended in the Region 7 quarterfinals for the team that surprised many with a 15-8 overall record. Though they lost height from two key losses, they will be looking forward to their depth in shooters and will look to pass the ball along the perimeter incessantly, force teams to make mistakes and get tired, before they work the ball into the middle and settle for nothing less than open looks.

“One thing I have learned is that basketball season is a marathon and we are definitely approaching it with that mentality this year,” Klein said. “We have had good energy in the gym, phenomenal attitudes and that in itself makes it fun to come to practice and coach.”

Heart River’s unfortunate injury list includes the sum of their post players, forcing Klein to readjust in the meantime. Luckily for the Cougars, it seems that recovery should get the team back to full roster within the season. With how competitive Region 7 is, what it will really come down to is if returning players can play catch up.

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Austin Buckman about to shoot a free-throw.
Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press

Senior forward Peyton Moore, has been sick, but should be back to practice soon as he is cleared, while returning senior Cade Wyant, who spent nearly two seasons on the injury list due to knee surgeries, will see the court soon. Wyant spent his time on the injury roster in preparations and Klein said his presence will be a big boost to their offense on the perimeter.

Sophomore Landon Roler is coming off a football injury and is expected to return following winter break. Depending on a forthcoming surgery and projected lengthy recovery process, junior Jordan Koppinger could be back at post by late season.

“[Roler] gives us nice size. He is a big 4, he has a big solid frame to him and will be a tremendous post present for us,” Klein said. ”[Koppinger] is having meniscus surgery so we are going to hope for the best that his procedure goes well and that we are able to get him on the court here this year.”

The six senior squad, two of whom are expected to garner plenty of playing time, will be led by Austin Buckman and Beau Krueger. The two had 82 steals and 94 assists between the two of them. Buckmann had 7.8 points and nearly four rebounds per game.

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Cade Wyant moving the ball around.
Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press

Klein said he is also looking forward to seeing what seniors Tate Janda and Braden Kessel will bring to the team this season, noting that Janda is a solid role player while Kessel has defined the Heart River motto of hard work.

“We are going to try and be disruptive on defense and that is where we are going to try and hang our hats, by doing the little things right,” Klein said. “Playing good defense, rebounding, and boxing out … One thing that I am excited about this year. I think we are going to be able to put five shooters out on the court, and once we get the rust knocked off and get into basketball shape it’s going to be good.”

Josiah C. Cuellar was born in San Angelo, Texas, a small rural community in the western part of the state known for its farming, ranching and beautiful Concho River. A Texas A&M San Antonio graduate specializing in multi-media reporting, Cuellar is an award winning photographer and reporter whose work focuses on community news and sports.
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