Nov 28, 2012 - By Bruce Tippets, Sports EditorSt. Stephen's will rely on senior Cole Littleshield and junior Lakota Oldman to be the floor leaders as the boys basketball season begins.
The pair have been through the Class 1-A trenches the last two years.
In a rocky regular season last year, when former coach Brady Slack stepped down during the conference schedule, longtime assistant coach Ricky Blackburn stepped in and guided the Eagles to the Class 1-A state tournament.
Blackburn returns as the head coach this year.
"Cole is Mr. Everything for us," Blackburn said.
Littleshield has started for the Eagles since he was a freshman.
"We are going to depend heavily on his scoring," Blackburn said. "Cole worked hard over the summer to get his outside shot down. We put in a few plays for him that are going to allow us to free him up."
Both Oldman and Littleshield were all-conference selections last season.
"Lakota is just an all-around athlete," Blackburn said. "We haven't seen Lakota reach the level that he needs to be at. Lakota and Cole are going to be our bread and butter right now."
"We have a mixture of old and new," Blackburn said. "We probably have more freshmen than returning players from last year. It's going to be interesting to see where they fit in and how they come along toward the end of season."
The first-year players for the Eagles are Jaron Arthur, Derick Roman, Miklo Oldman, LaQuan Shakespeare and Silas SunRhodes.
"I believe that we have three freshmen that can contribute at the varsity level," Blackburn said.
Blackburn said Arthur, Roman and Oldman will see plenty of playing time right at the start.
"We only had six players return from last year," Blackburn said. "They have adapted to the drills from the junior high system. They have responded well so far."
Sam Teran and Ruben Roman are the two other seniors on the roster.
"Sam has improved his game," Blackburn said. "He is more physical this year. Sam is more focused this year than he was last year."
Roman will be the point guard for the Eagles.
"We are looking for Ruben to carry the team and calm it down and get them into the sets," Blackburn said. "He is more confident in his outside shot."
Blackburn has liked the way the Eagles have stepped up in practice with the younger players.
"They have taken that leadership role, and they are serious about it," Blackburn said.
The Eagles open the season this Friday and Saturday at the Thermopolis Invitational.
St. Stephen's plays Tongue River on the first day. The Eagles challenge Mountain View and Thermopolis on the second day.
Tongue River and Thermopolis are in Class 2-A. Mountain View is in 3-A.
"I just think that when you play up, the kids' level of play has to come up," Blackburn said. 'I think that early on that is going to help us with these young guys. This weekend, will be an eye opening for us."
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