An interview with Cozad basketball's coaches

COZAD – The Lexington Clipper-Herald was invited to attend the second annual Cozad basketball open practice on Friday, Nov. 22. The boys and girls basketball teams opened the doors, welcoming the parents, fans and the community to see how they prepare for games and to witness, first hand, their accomplishments after the first week of practice.

The Lady Haymakers struggled in the 2018-2019 season, coming down to a 5-18 finish. Lady Haymakers second year head coach Zach Stauffer interviewed after practice, saying he thinks things are looking better this year.

“The girls know what we’re trying to do,” Stauffer began. “They know what we’re trying to do both offensively and defensively so there’s more confidence coming in. Last year, it really took a while for that confidence to get going.”

Being Stauffer’s second season coaching the lady ‘Makers, the players will be more familiar with the program and have an easier time operating in it.

“Year two is always a little bit easier,” he explained. “They know what I expect and so we can focus on coaching the little things rather than trying to put my offense in the defense.”

Stauffer also feels that his team will perform better, not just in the technique of the game, but as athletes overall.

“We’re going to get more guards out there and our posts are going to be more athletic,” he elaborated. “We’re going to get up and down the court a little faster. Our depth is going to be huge this year.”

The Haymaker boys, on the other hand, had a phenomenal season in 2018-2019 as they went 19-6 into the district final, last year. Much of Cozad’s scoring power, however, graduated in the spring and the Haymakers are left with few players with any varsity time on the court. While this may concern some fans, it doesn’t concern the Haymakers’ head coach Drew Danielson.

“I’m not at all concerned,” he said with a matter-of-fact tone and a small smirk. “The culture matters for the kids in our program. You can see the culture when they step onto the floor, you can see the energy, the hustle, the attitude. Our coaching staff is really good at coaching basketball and maximizing talent. When the kids buy into the culture, the winning becomes secondary. When you focus on doing the right thing, on and off the court like they have for the last three years, the winning will come.”

Danielson explained a unique outlook on practices and challenges in his team’s path. He describes his practices as being just as, if not more competitive than the start of the regular season.

“This summer we went out to Denver for a challenge with this same group of boys,” Danielson began. “Tonight we challenged them in front of their peers and parents with a game-like atmosphere and Tuesday we’re going to challenge them with a top five team in C1, Kearney Catholic. So, the challenges are going to come before our first test. When the season starts, our practices will probably be more competitive than our games. This was our fifth day of practice and we’re 5-0. When you’re taking it game by game and continuing to get better, it gives me no concern that we’re going to have a slow start to the season. This is Cozad basketball and we will start fast.”

Both coaches had a message for Haymaker Basketball fans.

“Keep believing,” Coach stauffer said with a smile. “Be here, show support and you already know my girls are going to work hard.”

“There’s no place to be in Nebraska than Cozad,” Danielson added. “It’s truly a special place and a gold mine. The people here work harder for what they have and I couldn’t think of a better place to be.”

The Cozad Haymaker varsity basketball teams will begin their regular season on Thursday, Dec. 5 when they host the Chase County Longhorns at the Barn in Cozad. The girls game tips off at 5:50 p.m. with the boys game to Follow at 7 p.m.

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