by nathan oster
You might need a little help recognizing the starting five for the Greybull Buffs this season, especially if you’ve only been showing up for varsity games in the past.
Coach Nolan Tracy will be rolling out a completely overhauled lineup at the Coal Miner’s Classic this weekend after bidding goodbye to the eight seniors who led the Buffs to a 4-4 record in the Class 2A Northwest and a 10-13 overall record.
“We’ve got some good kids coming back, but obviously, it’s a bit of a rebuilding project anytime you have to replace all five starters and eight seniors who played a bunch of minutes,” said Tracy. “The good news is, my top seven at least had varsity uniforms last year. They just got very limited playing time.”
The Buffs will play four games at the tournament in Wright, starting off with a 2 p.m. contest Friday afternoon against Wheatland. At 5 p.m., they face Glenrock before turning their attention to Saturday games against Wright at 9:30 a.m. and Lusk at 12:30 p.m.
Tracy and the Buffs may have to play shorthanded this weekend — one is lacking the required practice time, the other is fighting to be academically eligible. But when the ball goes up for the first time, there will be five Buffs on the floor, he said.
Tracy said that to begin the season, six players will be getting most of the minutes.
Korbin Adams, a senior, “is going to be the starting point guard,” said Tracy, noting that he “shoots well” and “almost always makes the right decision with the ball.”
Adams played in 11 varsity games last year, averaging 1.6 points per game.
Miguel Gomez is “a 6-1 guard who can shoot and drive,” said Tracy. “He’s able to play multiple positions effectively and is one of our most experienced players.”
Gomez got 12 games of varsity action, averaging 1.3 points and 1.5 rebounds per game.
Kayden Jackson and Riley Hill will man the post positions this year.
Tracy said Jackson, at 6-4, is “a shot blocker, rebounder and probably our best jumper. He uses his height and jumping ability to his advantage.” He averaged 1.6 points and 1.4 boards per game.
Hill is a completely different type of player, and among the returnees, he saw the most varsity action last year, appearing in 21 games, averaging 3.3 points and 2.9 rebounds per game. “He’ll be one of the biggest, strongest guys on the floor, no matter who we are playing,” said Tracy. “Nobody will be knocking him around inside.”
Max Mills and Braeden Tracy round out the coach’s “top six.” Mills “is the hardest working guy on the team,” said Tracy. “He’s quick, jumps well and is a defensive force, always in the passing lanes.”
Braeden Tracy was a varsity contributor last season before going down with a significant knee injury in a road game at Lovell. He averaged 2.7 points and 2.2 boards in 11 games prior to that injury.
Coach Tracy said if there’s a silver lining, it’s that these players did get to play a lot of junior varsity ball together, and that team did enjoy some success.
Rounding out the roster this year are senior Eddie Burgos, juniors Brock Hill, Gage Hunt, Abe Mendez, Ian Vannasdale, Calvin Farrow, Bridger Clark, Ivan Rodriguez and Gerardo Corral; sophomores Ben Kraft, Elian Davila, Branden Welsh and Will Dalin; and freshmen Matt Werbelow, Noah Zeller, Jesus Hernandez, Dale McBride, Gaven McColloch, Camryn Chapman, Skylar Jackson and Avery Swiftney.
Coal Miner’s Classic
Tracy said he expects the four games at the Coal Miner’s Classic to be a good test for his team.
“Wheatland is 3A in basketball and always has talent. Wright is very similar to us in that they have several new varsity players but (former Greybull coach) Pat (Neely) will have them ready to play so it will be a very competitive game,” said Tracy. “I don’t know much about Glenrock but they always have athletes so that alone can make them a tough matchup.
“Lusk, I believe, is rebuilding, but they have a tradition of success in their school so it is always a good game when you play them.”
Lovell won the conference title last season, but in Tracy’s eyes, it’s the other north Big Horn County team, the Rocky Mountain Grizzlies, wearing the target as the “team to beat” as the seasons begins.
“They will be the most experienced team with by far the most returning varsity players,” he said. “They were down on numbers last season, but not talent. They are returning all but the Simmons boys from their core varsity team last season and will be a force in the conference.
“We have five new starters so we aren’t on anyone’s radar, but I like it that way. We will be in the hunt for one of the top spots in the conference.”