SAN TAN VALLEY — Before the Arizona Interscholastic Association voted to cancel winter sports, Poston Butte boys basketball coach Rob Walker said it was a unique year.
Walker repeated the words again Wednesday, a day after the AIA executive board reversed its course and said winter sports would resume.
“I think everybody’s in the same boat,” he said. “I’m excited that we get to play. Wearing the masks is going to be a challenge, especially for the players. You see it on TV all the time; the coaches wearing masks, the managers and the trainers, but I think it’s going to be more challenging for the players. I think we’ll overcome that though.”
Walker added Poston Butte is working on finding the perfect mask for its athletes, one that is breathable and stays on so they can continue to play.
The Broncos did not practice at all during the days between the AIA board’s two separate votes and started back up Wednesday, wearing masks.
“I guess the state of Pennsylvania has been doing it so we’re not going to be the guinea pig,” Walker said. “Their sports returned with masks, and they’ve had success there.”
Although Walker is in his first year as head coach with the Broncos after coming over from Indiana, this will be he 25th year coaching.
Along with having a new coach, the Broncos are also in a new region which features Vista Grande, Phoenix Cortez, Scottsdale Coronado and Combs. The Black Canyon also includes Apache Junction; however, the Prospectors decided not to participate in the winter season.
“I could tell you where we stood if we were playing in Indiana, but I don’t know my competition very well,” Walker said. “I’m putting some faith in my coaches, in my players and our athletic director. We have a nice group of players and we should be competitive in the Black Canyon region.”
The Broncos are coming off a playoff run that ended all too soon in the Class 4A play-in round and will also look to some new faces after graduating seven key playmakers.
Among those who graduated are Quest Williams and Mariese Bruce.
Williams was the go-to guy for the Broncos, as he led the team in scoring averaging 23.4 points per game and the 6-foot-4 Bruce led the team in rebounds (147) and blocks (45).
Walker will look to Travelle Beckwith, Jimmy Brooks and DeAngelo Roberts to lead this year’s team.
Brooks and Beckwith saw a decent amount of playing last year, as Brooks racked up 156 points, 74 rebounds and 14 steals. Beckwith also put up impressive numbers with 89 rebounds, 16 steals and 102 points.
“We’re hoping that our seniors can really step up and I’ve seen it with DeAngelo and Travelle early on,” Walker said. “They’ve really pushed the team and that’s good to see. When I’ve coached in the past between the first five and the second five, there’s a big drop off, but with this group we do have the luxury of having 10 guys that are very competitive.”
Other Broncos Walker expects to have an impact are juniors Kayson Bryant, Jesse Gray, Amare Jackson and Edmond Touye, as well as sophomore Conner Lopez.
“Hopefully during the season we’ll have depth,” Walker said. “One of our goals is to make the playoffs. I would say this group is competitive. It’s all new for me this year, being new to the program, but basketball is not new to me so hopefully we can make another playoff appearance.”