Ripley was able to turn some heads last season with their play on the court.
The Blue Jays claimed a sectional title and were a win shy of their first district title since 2004. The journey to get back to Dayton began on Friday when Ripley began their summer basketball slate at Mason County’s team camp at The Fieldhouse.
Although summer games don’t count towards the 2018-19 win-loss record, the Blue Jays have an idea of what their focus will be in the month of June.
“We just talk pace and space a lot. We want to play fast and we want to space the floor out. Those are the two things we key in on,” Ripley coach Rex Woodward said. “Another thing is getting quality possessions, I understand we’re rusty and not going to shoot a high percentage every game, but if we don’t turn the ball over and get good looks and go out and compete, that is probably No. 1 on my list. I don’t care if we win or lose, but if we go out and compete and play our hardest, typically I’ll live with the results.”
A busy schedule in June will have the Blue Jays playing close to 30 games. That time on the floor will be useful to help replace the six seniors lost from a season ago.
“Our main goal is just to be playing a lot of basketball. It’s tough to work around everyone’s schedule with work and vacations and stuff. We got probably 15 guys we’ll interchange and we just want to play as much basketball as possible,” Woodward said.
Interchangeable roles was the Blue Jays bread and butter a season ago. Often times they’d go about 10 deep in their game rotations, keeping players fresh and tweaking with lineups that worked. It helped set their aggressive style of play with their hard-nosed defense and fast pace of play.
Team camps at Fleming County, Western Brown, Hillsboro, Morehead State and a Monday night league over a three-week span will help them get the contests in.
“We just want to play as much ball as possible so whenever school starts we’re somewhat fresh even though we’ll have to take another break after June,” Woodward said. “Hopefully with team camp and all these shootouts and things like that we’ll get familiar with each other and hopefully that will help once October rolls around.”
Another thing that will help is getting younger guys some varsity experience.
“One of our biggest challenges for us is getting guys varsity experience that have never played varsity basketball. We have five guys today (Friday) that have never played varsity. It’s going to take them probably the whole month of June to adjust with the difference in playing JV and Varsity basketball,” Woodward said. “That’s a challenge in itself and something we’re going to be looking at. A lot of these guys have grown up playing with each other, it’s a matter of getting them more organized and getting a little bit more structure to them.”
Even though the upcoming season will be Woodward’s second as the varsity coach, he’s spent plenty of time with every player on the team since their freshman season, coaching them in JV. Now it’s just a matter of molding the pieces he has together and finding the right rotations that fit while getting guys valuable time on the floor.
The successful season created quite a buzz as the contingent of Ripley fans was prevalent during their postseason run, fueling off the crowds to will them to postseason wins.
“That was big not only for the kids but for our school and community. Obviously we have a small community and our goal is to get back there again,” Woodward said. “I think that woke everybody up a little bit and let them know we have a lot of talent right now and as long as we just hone in on our goals and stay focused good things will happen whether it be competing for a league championship, winning a sectional or possibly getting back to Dayton.”
The start of June is a journey they’re hoping to embark on that will help take a step back to Dayton come March, aiming for something they haven’t done in nearly 15 years…winning a district title.
“We’re just going to take it one step at a time, right now it’s just shaking off the rust from being off, hopefully summer can get us going and that’s the first step of our long journey,” Woodward said.