Spain Park men’s basketball is ready to return to the court

Published 9:51 am Thursday, November 10, 2022

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By SETH HAGAN | Special to the Reporter

HOOVER – After a strong run to the Final Four and with returning experience from last year’s team, Chris Laatsch and the Spain Park Jaguars are looking to run it back and make another appearance in the postseason. Still, even with several veteran players en towe for this year, Coach Laatsch knows his club will have to recreate the magic for the new year.

“So I think every year is a new season and a new journey, everything is different,” says Laatsch. “You lose some guys from the year before and we’re excited about who we have in our program. These guys work hard every day, I love going to the gym and seeing them because I know what I’m going to get from them. I don’t have to worry about motivating guys to work hard, these guys bring it every day so it’s a lot of fun.”

Laatsch’s basketball philosophy doesn’t change often and the Jags will play a similar style to last year, but he believes the “pieces are in place” for his program to continue trending in the right direction.

“We’re going to try to score with pace in transition, we’re going to try and score before the defense is set. I’m a big believer in that,” says Laatsch. “We are going to be multiple defensively and try to keep people off balance that way. When you have bugs you want to play through them so they’re going to get touches, but we have guys who can drive and shoot the ball as well. I think we can be versatile in a lot of areas and have success.”

How far this team can go will be determined by this year’s roster and how amenable each player is to the part the staff needs them to play throughout the season.

“I think, if everyone stays bought in, we can identify roles and guys can maximize their potential in those roles we can reach our potential and that’s our goal every year: to be the best team we can be,” says Laatsch. “Sometimes that may mean getting the blue trophy, it might mean something else, but ultimately it’s about how good, collectively, we can be.”

The players realize the moment they’re in as well and what it will take to make sure Spain Park remains in the upper echelon.

“There’s a big target on our back and people are going to give us their best every single day because of what we’ve built as a program,” said Sam Wright. “Coach Laatsch’s main goal is for us to be better men by the end of the season and teaching us lessons through basketball along the way.”

“As far as the standard goes, Spain Park basketball’s standard never changes. We always have a standard that we play to every day,” said Zach Grey.

Stagnation and complacency can often creep into a program on the rise and while Laatsch doesn’t believe that will be a problem with this group, he knows could stand in the way of not reaching their potential:

“We need to increase our toughness and grit. We’ve great kids that want to do the right things and be in the right spots, but we lost some seniors that were really gritty and tough and did whatever they had to do to find a way to win,” said Laatsch. “We’ve got to establish that inside of our guys who want to do right, but then taking the next step of finding a way when there doesn’t seem to be one or the whatever it takes mentality.”

But Coach Laatsch does believe the team has the ability to get there with the right attitude. It’s a demeanor he’s seen in some of his best teams in the past.

“Our daily work ethic. We just believe that there are no days off, we’ve got to be all in every day,” says Laatsch. “You’re not going to be at your best every day, but the mentality has to be there. These guys show up and work hard whether it’s the weight room, the film room or on the floor these guys grind.”

New challenges await the Jags this year as reclassification landed defending state champion Oak Mountain in Spain Park’s area ratcheting up the level of intensity it will take to make the playoffs.

“It’s exciting, it changes up a bit. We’ve got really good coaches in our area, Coach Floyd over at Oak Mountain down the road,” says Laatsch. “We always have great basketball games with Oak Mountain traditionally, I don’t expect that to change and he’ll do a fantastic job.”

“I think it’s going to be outstanding matchups every night, I think it’s going to come down to one or two possessions every night,” says Laatsch. “I just expect there to be six wars that we’re in each and every night in our area.”

Spain Park returns three starters, has size and multiple players with big game experience from last year. However, the key will be bringing along the younger teammates to ensure the team has depth for a late season run.

“Coach always talks about how adversity is going to either bring you together or tear you apart so in order for a team to be great that adversity has to bring them together,” says Grey. “We’ve been attacking the weight room so much this offseason and just building relationships with the younger guys too. I’m excited to see how the year unfolds off the court and on the court.”

Laatsch brought his program just steps from the pinnacle of Alabama high school basketball last year. Now, he’s faced with the challenge of keeping them there.