To Raiders, deferred hoops start worth the wait

By BRENDAN PERKINS
Herald Sports Editor

Neighboring Jasper and Forest Park both had games under their belts before they loosened their belts for the Thanksgiving feast. Practically every other boys basketball team statewide has broken the seal on the 2013-14 season.

Except at Southridge. The wait continues in Huntingburg, where the Raiders are in a delayed class all their own.

When opening-game opponent Gibson Southern reached the football semistate — and the Raider football squad advanced to the regional, too — Gibson Southern contacted Southridge wanting to push back the teams’ debut game originally planned for Saturday. Now, the Raiders get started Dec. 13. And when they face Tell City that night at Huntingburg Memorial Gym, it’ll make them the last team in the state (along with Gibson Southern and football state finalists Tri-Central, Eastern Hancock and Fort Wayne Dwenger) to unveil the 2013-14 campaign.

Plenty of signs of life still flicker inside Huntingburg Memorial Gym, where the Raiders have been practicing with their full squad for almost two weeks. Raider senior Cody Thompson admits that there’s some restlessness simmering. But he and coach Jeremy Rauch are in agreement that the ultra-delayed start to the season isn’t such a bad thing.

“From our standpoint, I definitely enjoy the extra time, that’s for sure. We can take things a little bit slower and let these guys mentally and physically kind of make the transition to basketball,” Rauch said.

“(Football is) such an emotionally taxing sport. When you invest in something and win a sectional championship, there’s that little bit of a letdown and there’s a certain amount of time where they have to mentally be able to reinvest into something. I think this has given us some time. And to be honest, I think we’re just now (mentally recharging).”

Rauch can see the perks of the situation from both lenses. He suspects Tell City will come in next weekend feeling secure with its level of conditioning and substitution patterns. But the Marksmen won’t have seen the Raiders play, and the Raiders will have enjoyed an advanced screening on them. When the teams face off next weekend, Tell City will be four games deep into the season.

“It definitely is tough, you’re seeing all these other teams go out, have a good time on their Friday, Saturday nights and getting ready to play,” Thompson said. “But for us, it does let us go see a little bit of the competition, see what they’re going to have coming this year.”

Rauch also feels OK with the deferred start because, even though the Raiders have waited until December to launch their season for the last three years, the first game always incites the feeling that his team just isn’t ready to get started.

This year’s situation brings the luxury of taking things slow. As of Tuesday, the Raiders had installed three of their set plays on offense; that number eventually will reach 20 or 25.

“We’re still going to feel the same pressure that everybody else feels, because we’ve been really focusing on conditioning and skill work and easing into it,” Rauch said, “and now we’re going to have to start putting the pedal to the metal a little bit.”

When opening night does arrive, Rauch wants to have all the systematics firmly entrenched, thanks to another new scheduling quirk. In years past, Southridge had a layoff from games over Christmas break, allowing the Raiders time to install new schemes. This year, there are four games over the holiday break: a Dec. 21 clash with Jasper followed by three games in the Graber Post Buildings Classic at North Daviess.

At long last, the schedule starts to get jumping.

“This extra time is letting me and Connor (Craig) and some of the other football guys get more acclimated to basketball shape and the feel of the game again. It is a benefit in a way,” Thompson said. “But yeah, we do want to get back out there.”

Contact Brendan Perkins at bperkins@dcherald.com.




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