BY CHAD DARE
Intensity and competition are two key words with new Danville boys basketball coach Ted Houpt.
And both of those words accurately describe the start of the 2012-13 season.
The Vikings will open their season tonight at Champaign Centennial, one of the favorites to win the Big 12 Conference, as part of Lincoln Thanksgiving Tournament.
“I always want intensity and competition,’’ Houpt said. “We have designed practices with that in mind. We make everything a competition. I think that raises the intensity and the players get used to playing in game-like conditions.’’
Danville senior Daniel Carter admits the team has made some changes this season.
“There is a lot more seriousness with the players this season than last year,’’ he said. “Last year, we would mess around a lot when the coaches weren’t around.
“We’ve got stricter rules this year and everything is organized towards competition.’’
Carter said the team is learning quickly that there is only one way to do things for Coach Houpt.
“You either do it as hard as you can or we are going to run,’’ he said. “When we run, we are running for a long period of time.
“No one wants to run, we want to play basketball.’’
And that change in practices is expected to make a difference on the court as the Vikings were just 8-19 a year ago.
“We have to play harder to change our reputation of being a soft team,’’ Danville junior Kylen Butler said. “We’ve gotten that reputation because of our record and our mentality the past few seasons.’’
And while the new coach will not promise an exact number of victories, he does make one guarantee.
“We will play intense,’’ he said. “I can’t promise wins. But I can promise effort and playing together, and ultimately having a good time.
“It’s fun to play together and play hard. We will play with intensity and passion.’’
One advantage for Houpt is that he inherits a team that returns seven players that started at least one game last season.
“We have some good senior leadership and we have some juniors that have some experience with playing varsity basketball last year,’’ Houpt said. “All of these guys played a lot of basketball in the summer.
“We just need to get them together, gel and learn the new system. It might take a little while, but we have talent and leadership. There is some potential, we will see if we can get it all together.’’
Carter acknowledged that experience should be one of the strengths of this team.
“It should help because we have seven guys that have been through it before,’’ he said.
So, what is the key to the Vikings’ success?
“Defense,’’ Carter answered. “Last year, we didn’t play good enough defense and that’s why we only won eight games.’’
And, what about the offense?
“We have a lot of athletic guys that can get out and run,’’ Butler said.
Houpt said one of the keys early will be finding a consistent rotation and lineup.
“I think we have a bunch of kids that can play,’’ he said. “We just have to wait and see what happens on the court.
“Our goal is to do things right and usually wins will follow that.’’
Tonight’s game at Centennial will start with the junior-varsity game at 6 p.m. and the varsity contest is tentatively set for 7:30 p.m.
Danville will continue play in the Lincoln Tournament on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday in Lincoln.
The first home game for the Vikings will be Friday, Nov. 30 against the Decatur Eisenhower Panthers.