Tim Sutton should understand the challenge at this point.
Entering his third season, North Platte’s energetic coach will again need to replace his top scorer and the most obvious hole in the lineup. He wants to do it without taking another step back.
North Platte went 7-15 last season and just 1-6 in KCI Conference play.
“I will say this: we will be different from last year,” Sutton said.
In Sutton’s debut season, North Platte posted a winning record (14-12) and reached the Class 2 District 16 semifinals. The Panthers returned limited contributors from that team, but Ben French became the go-to scorer last season.
North Platte ran off four straight wins in late January but couldn’t sustain the momentum.
However, French and starter turned important sixth man Hunter Oliver were the main senior contributors a year ago. Austin Snook, Remington Wilson, Corbin Green and Bart Owens will be the seniors this go-round, while junior Hunter Hendricks will look to continue his development from late last year.
North Platte sophomore Andrew Hernandez could also see increased time, along with junior Jesse Martin.
“As compared to the past, we’ve been fairly senior and junior oriented, but this year I think we’ll have some sophomores who will be a little more involved in the varsity action,” Sutton said. “The nice thing about that is we’re going to be more like 12 deep as compared to say eight deep.”
North Platte found an identity with French leading the way from point guard last year, and Sutton will continue to tinker to try and find the right combinations. The players believe lessons were learned from last year’s struggles.
“Just showing them what the right work ethic is,” Snook said. “Just showing them how to work day in and day out ready to work with a good attitude, and we’ve struggled in the past but what it comes down to is us just deciding to compete every single day and just come in ready to work and just try to change the tradition around here.”