By Justin Sampson (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Year one of Aurora boys basketball under Dylan Curtis yielded an 11-15 mark and a second round exit in district play.
Like any coach in a new position, he could spend time dwelling over things that could have been done better. Instead, he is focused on how much smoother this preseason has gone.
“Any time you take over a program, there is a learning curve,” Curtis said. “The kids know what to expect now and how we try to attack things. We can focus more on skillsets than system now.”
The Houn’ Dawgs boasted one of the best pure scorers in the Big 8 last year in Matt Miller. Now, the All-Conference First Team selection is gone and so are his 25 points per night. Six seniors return that will aim to replace that production.
“I like the pieces that we have and I think we can play good team ball. We won’t have that focal point like last year, but I’m anxious to see how quickly we can adjust to that.”
Senior Casey Weatheron is the top returning point-getter with 6.3 per outing. The 5’10” guard should see that increase as Aurora will count on his ability to get to the rim and control pace.
Kaden Clark will be the easiest player to spot at 6’4” and is the top rebounder with an 8.2 average per night. Fellow senior Logan Lauffer is also back and is maybe the best defender on the roster. Curtis will count on him to set the energy tone for the entire team
The Houn’ Dawgs will face further questions in the form of potential season-ending injuries to senior Austin Hartwigsen and junior Ryan Cline. Hartwigsen suffered an MCL/meniscus tear this fall and will likely miss no less than the first half of the winter. Cline is dealing with a torn labrum after missing of his sophomore campaign with another injury.
Both would likely be competing for heavy minutes if healthy, but Aurora is pressing forward. They have a new division to grow accustomed to as heavyweights like Logan-Rogersville and Springfield Catholic join them and Hollister, Marshfield, Reeds Spring, and Mount Vernon in the Big 8 East Division.
The Houn’ Dawgs are no strangers to these opponents and are fully aware of the gauntlet that lies ahead. Curtis feels that the energy level will be a big catalyst to them getting off to a fast start.
“Intensity on the defensive end is going to be much higher than it was at the start of last year. We’re not very big,” he said. “We have a lot of guys that are just under six feet, but we’re going to utilize our speed.”