RESILIENCY: San Marcos using set backs to push forward into District play.
Sitting at 24-2 on the year, most people would not think being resilient would be a term used to describe a basketball program. But for Coach Dan Miller and the San Marcos Rattlers, that is the perfect word to describe his squad as they draw closer to district play on January 13th.
"We faced a lot of things in the preseason with Malik and what happened to him and Kaden's injury," said head coach Dan Miller. "Cash Good has had injuries he's dealing with as well, so our guys are just next man up, being resilient and just being together. So pre-district is about getting you ready for district and I feel like we are peaking at the right time. And I feel good about the team really buying into our mission of just being a team that's resilient, tough and together."
Their resiliency was on full display Tuesday with a trip to top TAPPS Austin team St. Michael's where they had to use a 4th quarter rally to come away with a 69-64 win.
"I mean that's a perfect example right there," said Miller. "St. Michael's has a really good team and we had to go to their place and it felt like a district game honestly."
Heading into the game, coach Miller reminded his players that teams are going to be giving the Rattlers, who are state ranked their best shot this year.
"You know with Malik and with Kaden and being state ranked, teams are coming after Sam Marcos so we have be the hunters and not the hunted," said coach Miller. "I felt like last night it took us a little bit to get into that mode so we found ourselves down most of the game and you know good teams can find ways to win games when maybe they're shooting isn't going great and that's what we did last night we just kind of gutted out made enough plays down the stretch and got the defensive stop and that's what I've been really pleased with this team in our close games we've been able to get key stops in the fourth quarter and that's what we're gonna need to take care of business."
But before the injury bugs and close games, coach Miller knew that his team would need to be put to the test in pre-district play. The Rattlers came into the season with high expectations after their 27-10 season last year ended with a heartbreaking 59-58 first round loss in the playoffs and Miller wanted a schedule that would test the Rattlers.
"We really liked our schedule because we have a variety of games against teams that are outside of our region and private schools," said coach Miller. "We also ended up playing good teams in our region. We played some good 6A Teams and some of the better 5A teams like Rouse two times actually, because we met them in the tournament."
Miller feels the schedule and level of play has led to his team finding their groove at the right time.
"So I think our schedule had a variety of different styles and different areas from where the teams were from," Miller continued. "And I like the way we battle through it. We've won close games, we've won some games big, we lost to a couple of teams. But right now I feel like we're peaking and just getting a little bit better each day going into district play, and that's what it's about. But we're proud of the win totals that we have right now and obviously we hope we can keep it going."
While coach Miller is quick to point out the play from all of his players during this time, and rightfully so, Malik Presley seems to have taken his game to another level to start his senior year. During the Rattlers first ever Holiday Classic, Presley surpassed 2,000 points for his career
"1000 points, as everyone knows, is a very big deal in high school, so 2000 points is very rare," said coach Miller.
But coach Miller also praises Presley's ability to be more than just a scoring threat for the Rattlers.
"He can score but Malik really is a three level player where he can score at the rim, he can hit the mid range and then also hit the three," coach Miller said of Presley. "So he is such a weapon, scoring the basketball. And then what's even more fun to me about Malik's game is how much it expanded over the last year. He's second on our team in assists per game behind Kaden, and he's become a very good passer. He's become a very good defender this year where we can put him on really any position. And he's just becoming (took out the word slowly) a complete player that will be ready at the high major level next year and at high school is just a very tough matchup for other teams."
What may be Malik's best trait, though, is his character on and off the court. Presley is described by coaches and fellow players as bringing a contagious positive energy and is never above doing what is asked of him.
"He is a great young man," said coach Miller. "And a lot of times when you have guys who have high major offers, they maybe get a little big headed or too cool for school. And that never once has been Malik. He always does whatever we ask, and it's just such a fun and great young man.
Now, as the Rattlers turn their attention to the key part of their schedule, coach Miller has gotten back a key part to his teams front court in Texas State commit Kaden Gumbs. Gumbs, who has missed most of the season with a leg injury came back during the Rattlers first annual Holiday Classic and has looked great in his return averaging 13 points and 6.8 assists per game in his 6 games back.
"The first day was just a little rusty," coach Miller said of Kaden. "He (Kaden) just did a few things, a few finishes that he normally would finish. But by game three, game four, he was just back to what we expect from Kaden. He is our quarterback of our team. And then game five he played one of his best games offensively against Trinity Christian that I've seen. He had twelve assists and zero turnovers, and that helped us route a really good Trinity Christian team. And that's when we knew he was all the way back. So he's a special player. He changes the game so much."
Meanwhile, Miller praised Cash Good and Jayven Cofer for filling in for Kaden during his injury.
"Cash Good did a fabulous job, as did Jayven Cofey filling in as the point guard. And Cash is our future point guard. He's only a sophomore," said Miller
Having been tested, and overcoming the injuries to start their year, the Rattlers now look toward what should be a tough district in 27-6A. Currently all teams are above .500 with New Braunfels also currently sitting at 2 losses on the season.
"We have such a good district and that means probably at the end of the year, there will be two out of the six teams that have overall winning records and not playing in the playoffs," coach Miller said. "So we have to make sure that obviously we're not one of those. Our goal is, and we don't run away from it, our goal is to win district. We have our work cut out for us."
Coach Miller, however, is quick to point out that while the overall goal is to win district, they can't get too far ahead of themselves.
"The second you start looking ahead, the second you start feeling yourself a little bit is when things don't go your way," said Miller. "So we preach to these guys to stay in the moment, stay and have the best practice we can. Whoever is in front of us, that's who we're focused on. And really, more than focusing on our district opponents, we try to always focus on ourselves to do things the right way, to play Rattler basketball. And if we do that we feel things will go our way most of the time."
The Rattlers last test before district will be this Saturday where they will have a home game against Eagle Pass. Tip off is scheduled for 1:30PM.