Carey School boys' basketball coach Dick Simpson has guided league championship teams at the varsity and junior varsity levels. He has learned that it takes personnel and a plan to win basketball games.
Simpson certainly has the personnel to succeed in the 20-game regular-season schedule that begins today, Wednesday with non-conference road games at Oakley.
Other Northside Conference coaches are pointing their fingers and saying Carey has everybody back and should be favored in the seven-team league.
That's not entirely correct.
Carey was going to return 10 players from last year's 15-9 squad that placed second in the Northside regular season but fell short of the State 1A tournament with a 61-57 overtime loss to Camas County in the Northside tournament.
But football injuries have claimed three of those prospective returning players. Senior Luke Harmon (knee) had ACL surgery Friday. Rugged senior wing Devin Simpson (3.5 ppg last season) will be out until the latter part of December with a broken arm suffered in football.
And Brad Hunt (8.3 ppg), a 5-9 junior wing who was one of Carey's best players down the homestretch last season, found out last week that he'll be sidelined four to six months with a knee patella injury he suffered during the Mackay-Carey football game back on Oct. 5.
The depth that should have been one of Carey's bragging points has been substantially reduced. That will put more pressure to produce on juniors like 5-8 hustler Cody Baird (4.3 ppg), 5-7 sharpshooter Allen Peck (8.3 ppg with 29 3-pointers) and 5-11 James Carlson.
Seniors Bryan Hill and 6-3 Ben Neilson will have to step up, and sophomores D.J. Simpson and Tyler Parke may see some varsity time.
Carey, however, is the only Northside team to return two first-team All-Conference players—and seniors Tyler Cook and Tadd Green comprise a pretty good inside-outside tandem to have on the court. Their talent and experience will be major factors this season.
So despite the injuries, Carey still has the players. And they've got the usual Simpson plan—strong outside shooting, run-and-gun offense, pressure defense and boardwork achieved through positioning.
"We'll have a good inside and outside game," said fifth-year coach Simpson (83-20), who coached a pretty good inside-outside tandem in Ty Simmons and Blake Surerus to back-to-back 22-3 campaigns and state tournament trips from 2002-04.
Green, a 6-3 post, led Carey with 367 points (15.3 ppg) last winter and has scored 684 in 49 varsity games (14.0 ppg) over two seasons. Cook, a 5-9 spot-up shooter, had 306 points (12.8 ppg) including 69 3-pointers. He is averaging 11.4 ppg over two winters and has made 133 3-pointers in 49 games.
In all-time Panther ranks, Green with a good season could creep over the 1,000-point mark and into the top five. Cook (559 points) is a long shot for 1,000, but he'll move up in the ranks. And all Cook needs is 18 3-pointers in a game to tie Tim Tingey's single-game mark of 54 points set 17 years ago.
Coach Simpson said, "Tadd plays well with his back to the boards, he's jumping better and he's gotten more confident. Playing for a week at the University of Utah this past summer is going to help him. He's a little bit of a force to be reckoned with."
Leading Carey's football team to a conference championship as quarterback this fall did wonders for Cook's confidence. Cook has always been able to shoot, but he has improved his ability to see the floor and create opportunities.
If Carey freelances, the Panthers take their cue from Cook.
Simpson said, "We'll be more patient on offense and won't make as many youthful mistakes this year. We do run a lot of structured stuff, but there's also a lot of opportunity to freelance. And this group of kids likes to do that."
The coach added, "Allen (Peck) has gotten a lot better and stronger on the wing. With Tyler and Allen out there, they gotta guard them. The way I coach, I like to find the open man. In fact I don't care who scores as long as he's open."
Carey gave its fans a sneak preview of its inside-outside attack Saturday during a three-school jamboree on the Panther hardwoods.
In the first 20-minute game, Cook scored 18 points (six 3-pointers) in a 35-32 victory over Idaho City. Green added 10 and Peck had two 3-pointers.
But it took a Cook feed inside to Green for a close-in bucket with three minutes left to break open a 32-30 game and assure the triumph.
Trailing by 11 points twice in the early going against Hagerman's defensive pressure, Carey went to a zone defense to shut the Pirates down and embarked on an 18-3 run that turned the game around. Getting points from seven players, Carey won 44-36 as Green had 20 points (8-for-12 free throws) and Cook 10.
One of Carey's pre-season goals is to return to the state tournament, where they've gone nine times in 13 years including a second place in 2001, and thirds in 2003 and 1994. In 15 seasons since 1991, Carey's basketball record is 254-111.
"We wanted to be there last year, so the kids are little hungry," said Simpson (86-18 as coach the last five years including an undefeated JV season in 2001). "We'll try to win all our home games and half of our road games. If we do that we should get there."
Simpson said he expects conference champion Richfield (22-4) to be tough, with three kids back. Bliss is improved, he said, and Shoshone's coach Larry Messick "always comes up with something," he added.
Carey, league champion in 2003 and 2004, will have a score to settle with Camas County—having been eliminated in the tournament by the Mushers after going 3-0 against Camas County in the regular campaign. "We'll have to play to beat Camas," said Simpson.
The Panthers will also have to play to beat last year's State 1A tournament runner-up Mackay if the Miners and Carey wind up in Saturday's title game of the 2005 Carey Holiday Tournament. Carey lost both of its games in its own tournament last December after falling to Mackay in the 2003 and 2002 championship games. Mackay beat Challis 62-55 in last year's title contest.
Carey's JV is coached for the third year by 1999 Panther graduate Danny Simpson. On the team are sophomores Blake Whitby, Jordan Surerus, Connor Rivera, Tyler Parke, Moj Broadie, Scott Ellsworth, Tyler Wilde, D.J. Simpson, Kade Peterson and Kyle Brooks, plus freshmen Jared Cenarrusa, Heath Adamson, Wulf Lebrecht and Andrew Carlson.
The Panthers won last year's Northside JV title 49-43 over The Community School of Sun Valley.