Spain Park shoots for the stars in quest for fourth straight Final 4

Published 3:08 pm Thursday, November 2, 2023

By SETH HAGAN | Special to the Reporter

It’s fair to say Spain Park boys basketball head coach Chris Laatsch has found a winning formula heading into his sixth season with the Jaguars.

Three straight trips to the Final Four of Class 7A is a staggering task all on its own, but what makes Laatsch’s teams so unique is that each unit has been different with each of the last three senior classes producing elite players and leaders of their own. Now the question for the Jags coaching staff becomes: how far can this new team go?

“What do we have to do for this team?” Laatsch said. “It’s different and all those three teams were different. Our job as coaches is to figure out what’s the best way for this team to play. They’ve got to grow up fast. We’re inexperienced, but we have kids who are extremely coachable, extremely hard-working, and I think they trust us and they trust each other.”

Spain Park may be inexperienced, but Laatsch has dealt with that before and still has been able to achieve excellence. What it really comes down to is to has been waiting patiently in the wings for their chance to shine.

“We are coming off a year that we were really proud of, proud of what our guys accomplished, and how they grew as young men,” said Laatsch. “[We] lost a lot of good players, [so] the opportunity is there, and we’ve got some outstanding young men that want those spots.”

Trying to see what his team was made of, Coach Laatsch put his team through an arduous summer schedule. This would ensure players began to develop in their roles and that leadership would rise to the occasion.

“We played 30-plus games this summer,” Laatsch said. “I knew we had an inexperienced group, and I thought that those game reps were more important than the practice reps. What I saw was a gritty, tough, unified group that wants to win and wants to do whatever it takes to win.”

Those same characteristics are all too familiar traits of past Jaguar teams. But, again, this team will take its own shape. This year, Spain Park is embracing a wide-open strategy on offense as sharp shooters have come up through the ranks and become a team strength.

“We’ve had some tremendous back-to-the-basket players here in the past, but we’re going to spread the floor more than we have this year,” Laatsch said. “[There’s] a lot more opportunities for guys to make plays. We’ve got a lot of three-point shooters, so I see us shooting it a lot more from the perimeter.”

Basketball philosophy and strategy changes year-to-year, but as players come and go throughout his coaching career, Laatsch’s mission has remained the same with all his teams.

“My goal is always for the team to reach its potential, and I don’t know what that is today,” Laatsch said. “What do we have to do to reach that. If at the end of the year, we’ve got these kids pulling together to reach a goal bigger than themselves, then I think we’ve got a chance to reach our potential, which is our ultimate goal.”