Basketball practice got underway Tuesday for the Runnin’ Rams of Mineral Wells, and it’s a period of adjustment for new head coach Seth Riddle who has never coached or played basketball at a “football high school” before.
The Lipan graduate did his assistant coaching at nearby Poolville and was a head coach at Huckabay before being hired to head the Rams’ basketball program. None of those schools have a football program, and basketball season meant a full complement of players.
“I’ve never been at a football school,” Riddle laughed, “It’s been a little different for me because we won’t get all of our players for a couple more weeks.
Rams’ football ends Nov. 8, and the day after basketball has its first scrimmage of the season hosting Bridgeport at 10 a.m. Nov. 9.
“That will be the first day we should have out the entire team on the court,” Riddle said. “We’ve got to keep our offense simple first as those guys catch up.”
Riddle has already proven himself to be a “no-nonsense” coach with the dismissal of potential starter due to disciplinary reasons, and there’s not a peep out of his players as he explains a rotation he expects on an offensive play.
“It’s got to be broken down because some of this stuff is going to be new to them. I think we have to start simple and then work our way up,” Riddle said. “The players that will be coming out of football will need this. It’s a new language coming over from football and switching to basketball.”
While Riddle may expect his team to stay quiet and pay attention when he’s talking, he is also looking for plenty of what he calls a “lost art,” on the basketball court.
“I want my players to communicate with each other,” Riddle said. “I want them to be calling out each other’s names and making passes. Talking to your teammates has become a ‘lost art’ in basketball, and we are going to do a lot of talking.”
There’s been sports-specific training during the summer for the first time in Texas, but Riddle was a late hire after coach Neil Mesler accepted the position of Dean of Students at Mineral Wells Junior High.
Mesler still being in town has also been an excellent asset for Riddle, who has been able to find out about his players and their attributes from a knowledgeable source.
“Neil has been great, and we were already friends before I came here, and we’ve built on that friendship,” Riddle said.
An early morning Facebook post on Thursday by Mesler confirmed that statement:
“Two skinny basketball coaches 1, Ram head weighing a ton 0. Thanks for the help Seth Riddle.”
The post reported the two coaches had wrestled the blow-up Ram mascot head into Mesler’s pickup before school started. Loading the Rams’ head is a “honey-do” when one’s wife oversees the student council.
Riddle expects to carry 10 players on the varsity squad but may go up to as many as an even dozen to fill out his team.
“I want players to be playing the game and not sitting on the bench,” Riddle said. “We’ve got a couple of players that we know will be on varsity, and there are a few players who are on the bubble and need to work harder.”
Around 30 players are expected to turn out for high school basketball once the season gets fully underway, and Riddle doesn’t expect to commit to his varsity roster until after the scrimmages are under the Rams’ belts.
One of the most significant changes for Riddle is the size and openness of the Mineral Wells High School gym after playing in “boxy” gyms in Huckabay and Poolville.
“That’s one of the biggest differences for me. This gym is a great facility, and we are hoping we generate enough excitement to fill the seats here,” Riddle said.