The totally redesigned Idaho Stampede opened Training Camp this Tuesday ushering in a new coaching staff and a slew of new players. Gone are the high volume gun slingers and matador defenders of last season, and in their place comes a new crop of athletic freakazoids with a new attitude and approach to winning.
While last year's team could be catagorized as a fun-loving bunch of guys that could put more points on the board than the thing could handle, they were also notorious wet noodle defenders on the defensive side of the court. Points in the paint came quickly and often for Stampede oppenents last season and you could just see the dunkers and three point shooters licking their lips during warm-ups, just chomping at the bit ready to hit the court to pad their scoring averages. But with Randy Livingston ((known as "Coach Liv" ) at the helm Stampede oppenents might be doing a little less three point lane walzting this season. The Stamps have a whole new bag and they aren't just thinking about this being a rebuilding year, they're thinking championship.
But how you might ask can Idaho possibly compete for a championship in 2010-2011? Didn't the Stampede pick last in this year's draft? And aren't the Stampede number 14 in the Power Ranking for the upcoming season? And didn't they lose everyone from last season other than one reserve player? Well, it's true they picked last in the draft and they're 14th in the Power Rankings and it's true that the high powered offensive jugernaut from last year that lead the league in possessions per game and put up the highest point total in one game in D-League history is off to greener pastures we must remember that with all that firepower came a 25-win season and a team that staggered off to an early vacation while missing the playoffs for the first time in eons. And while the Stamps didn't get to choose early in the draft they got the type of players that fit well within Coach Liv's system. These are solid guys and tough competitors. Last season was fun and entertaining but it was tough not making the playoffs. Coach Liv is determined not to let that happen again.
The Stamps are putting heavy emphasis on defense this season and they've got the talent to shut down many would be gunners. They've got strong athletic players on the wings, quickness at the top and length near the basket. Take in point Seth Tarver, former Pac-10 defensive player of the year, super quick guards in Lance Allred and number one draft pick (and lightening bolt ) Salim Stoudamire and big 6'11" Eric Boateng with the sideline-to-sideline wing span ready to swat anything in range-range being anything within the three point arch. There's just a ton of athleticism on this team and they're going to make stops-lots and lots of stops. Some say defense wins championships and this is something Coach Liv knows alot about. By Coach Liv's side are two fine basketball minds, Associate Coach of Mastery Joel Abelson and former Boston Celtic (who guarded the likes of Michael Jordan) Assistant Coach Greg Minor.
Tuesday was the first day of Training Camp but you wouln't know it by how sharp and in shape the players look. Therefore do not count the Idaho Stampede out this season, in fact you can plan on buying your playoff tickets early if you'd like because by the looks of things the Stamps are going to surprise a lot of people in 2010-2011. And let this be fair warning to the rest of the league to bring extra ice, oxygen masks, trainers and maybe even a portable hot tub or two because the Stamps are ready to go to work and they're going to D people up.