High School Boys Basketball

BREAKING THROUGH

Tigers in playoffs for 1st time since ’13-14

By DENNIS SILVA II, Times Sports Editor
Posted 2/20/20

The identity of Katy High’s 2019-20 boys basketball team is predicated upon actions, not words. That was never more evident than a change that altered the course of the Tigers’ season around Christmas time.

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High School Boys Basketball

BREAKING THROUGH

Tigers in playoffs for 1st time since ’13-14

Posted

The identity of Katy High’s 2019-20 boys basketball team is predicated upon actions, not words. That was never more evident than a change that altered the course of the Tigers’ season around Christmas time.

Needing a way to get some players more rest while sustaining rotations that could be productive on the court, coach Danny Russell went up to senior guard Chermane Sims—one of the team’s best scorers and a two-year varsity letterman—with an idea.

Russell thought Sims, a constant in the Tigers’ starting lineup up until that point, coming off the bench would be in the team’s best interest.

It turned out to be one of the easier player-coach conversations Russell has had in his eight years at the helm of Katy.

“It was actually really easy for me,” Sims said. “I just want to win. It’s not about me or how much playing time I get or how many points I score. I couldn’t care less. I just want to win. I feel like that’s why we’re in the position we are today. We don’t have any selfish guys on this team. Winning is all that matters.”

Russell reflects back on that switch as a significant turning point of the Tigers’ season, one that has produced a playoff berth for the first time since 2013-14.

“We used to have some bad stretches, and being able to bring (Chermane) in and then bring others in and out at certain times eliminated some of those bad stretches,” Russell said. “It helped tremendously.”

Katy is 18-13 and earned the second seed in District 19-6A by going 7-5. It’s the Tigers’ best season since that 2013-14 year.

The Tigers have been close, missing the playoffs by tiebreaker rules last season. They missed the postseason by two games in 2017-18 despite being 17-4 entering district play.

But from 2014-15 to 2016-17, the Tigers won a combined 29 games, and just six in district play. That 2016-17 season was this senior class’s freshman year. Since then, the program has been on an upswing, and not by coincidence.

“Our senior class has built themselves around kids who are an example of why we’re here,” Russell said. “They were a freshman class of 24 kids, six are left as seniors. They got here by being bought-in, by being selfless, by being coachable. These are the kids that did it.”

The Tigers know they are not the biggest, strongest, tallest or fastest. But they pride themselves on being the most fundamental.

“Details are everything,” Sims said. “Catching the ball with two hands, coming to a jump stop, pivoting. Those things are bigger than being athletic or anything else. People are seeing that product of us focusing on the details.”

A few other things have buoyed the Tigers.

One was the heartbreak from losing a tiebreaker to Taylor for the fourth and final playoff spot last season.

“Last year hurt,” sophomore guard Dayvaughn Froe said. “This year, we didn’t want to go out like that. We wanted to be in control of our own destiny, and that’s really been our mindset the whole season. We didn’t want it to come down to one game whether we were in or not in. We wanted to be sure.”

Second was the change involving Sims.

“We had guys playing really well and teams were keying in on me as a shooter, as far as denying me the ball and face-guarding,” Sims said. “Coach felt it’d be easier for me as a scorer to come in off the bench. I’m willing to do whatever Coach needs me to do.”

Third was the payoff of experience and buy-in. The Tigers talk about how last year’s close call made them understand the importance of every possession. They’ve proved it.

Katy is 4-2 in district play in games decided by five points or fewer.

“When you get down to games that are close in the end, it comes down to a few things,” Russell said. “One is confidence and experience. Another is free throws. We’re a pretty good free-throw shooting team. And then sometimes it’s having a little luck on your side, but I’m also a believer that you can generate some of your own luck to a degree with attitude, energy and mindset.”

And all of those intangibles come from the seniors, all of whom—Sims, Casper Belaiter, Alex Cross, Brayton Faust, Bryce Purchase and Titan Doll—came up through the program in workmanlike fashion: freshman team, junior varsity and two years of varsity.

They know what it is to earn what they get. These Tigers have a belief in themselves that comes from confidence in doing things the right way over and over again.

“It all starts with practice, and the mindset we approach it with,” Belaiter said. “We work hard. We come in with energy. Leaders have to step up. We have to be detailed in what we do. All of that adds up.”

There is no star individual player. Froe is a gifted athletic talent and has an incredibly bright future, but he does not stand out any more than players like Sims, Belaiter, Purchase, junior Connor Champion or even freshman post Aydan Perdue.

Teamwork is Katy’s driving force. So is being the underdog. Russell has identified a culture. Players see it through.

“We can’t get too comfortable,” Sims said. “We’ve got targets on our backs. Guys are looking at us, like, ‘Who’s that Katy team and what’re they doing (in the playoffs)?’ We’re turning heads, but we can’t focus on the outside noise. We have to key in on ourselves.”

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