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Rubber meets the boards for Blue Jay basketball

The Jamestown High School boys basketball team began practices on Nov. 22.

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Jamestown's Coach Jacoby Lloyd will have plenty of new players to talk to on the bench after graduating ten seniors from the team last year. John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun

There are not very many similarities between the sports of basketball and football -- unless you look at a 2021 Jamestown High School roster.

"I love football, it teaches us so many things that carry over to basketball but the coaching technique can't be, hit that guy harder, because you will get called for a foul," JHS head basketball coach Jacoby Lloyd said. "You have to be able to play with a little more finesse and be a little bit more patient. They are still trying to figure that out."

Ten days after a number of athletes on Lloyd's varsity roster suited up for head football coach Bill Nelson in the Class A state championship game, they entered Jerry Meyer Arena ready to bring that success to the boards. The Blue Jays began practices on Nov. 22 and will officially kick off the 2021-22 campaign on Friday with a trip to Valley City.

Andy Skunberg's JHS girls team will take the floor first at 5:45 p.m. with the boys to follow at 7 p.m.

"We are just really trying to figure out who we are and what we have and how we can play together to maximize our abilities," Lloyd said. "We have a group of unselfish kids and we believe that anybody with the ball is going to make the right decision and they are not going to force anything."

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As the Blue Jays only have 11 upperclassmen, Lloyd has brought up some former junior varsity players, some of whom haven't seen much even at the JV level.

In the handful of practices since the start of the season, Lloyd has been working on getting his squad up to speed regarding the style of defense, how the offense is set to function and how different athletes will function on the court. Lloyd said the Jays, particularly those previously in football, are still re-learning how to space the floor and when to attack.

"I would say we're a little bit behind where we normally are from a conditioning standpoint," Lloyd said. "It still looks like we have a lot of football players trying to play basketball and those are not very similar sports from a skill-set standpoint."

"(But) we have good senior leadership that has competed at a high level. Three of them have participated in varsity games in previous seasons and they've done a really nice job of leading by example and knowing what we expect as a varsity program."

Luke Van Berkom, Adam Kallenbach and Devin Beach are Lloyd's three experienced seniors. All have suited up for Lloyd since their sophomore seasons. Former JV captains Preston Kroeber and Chase Grenz have also been called up this season.

Lloyd said in a preseason interview that juniors Payton Hochhalter, Ethan Gall and Mason Lunzman are all expected to give the Jays some good minutes.

"I think as a program, we have expectations for where we want to be -- we want to end up near the top of the WDA regular-season standings," Lloyd said. "We had a scrimmage on Saturday and we showed some inexperience but also saw some flashes of really, really good play. It was really encouraging.

"We're going to show some inconsistency from time to time but that is what happens when you have young kids playing their first year of varsity basketball."

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The head coach said he has been impressed by the Jays' offensive ball movement and good decision-making. On the defensive side of things, Lloyd said the Blue Jays have some really quick, athletic guards. Jamestown is also bringing in some good guard depth. Lloyd said the Jays' on-ball defense should be a good starting point for the team.

While he's got some pieces, Lloyd said the Jays are in the process of finding some guards who can guard multiple positions. A number of West Region teams have some 6-foot-plus talent on both the inside and outside, and Lloyd said the Jays will need to evaluate closely whether speed or size will match up one-on-one.

Jamestown will get a solid 32 minutes of testing their theories on Friday -- and as a bonus -- the game is inconsequential when looking at postseason play.

"It allows you to come out and see what you have in a varsity basketball game that doesn't count against your overall conference record," Lloyd said. "It's a very crucial part of the season. You will have actual game film to evaluate and actual competition."

That slated non-conference, competition poses some unknowns for Lloyd and the Jays.

"We didn't play against them last year because of the COVID rules and our scheduling," Lloyd said of the Hi-Liners. "I don't know much about them from a younger kid standpoint and who they'll have coming back. I think that is the exciting thing. We'll be able to walk into that gym and play our style of basketball and see how it works."

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