The shoes squeaking on the hardwood court, the sound of a ball bouncing up and down as a coach barks instructions and the sweet sound of a ball going through a net could be heard all across South Dakota yesterday.
Monday marked the first official day of both boys' and girls' basketball in the state, meaning that every team is currently 0-0 and every team has a chance to make it to the state tournament.
For some local teams, the start of the season means avenging a loss in last year's state tournament. For others, it means trying to win a fifth straight title that everyone in the state covets.
No matter what school they're from, everyone can agree that the start of the season is a time for excitement.
"I always look forward to basketball season, I think like a lot of coaches, you’re always looking forward to the next season," Rapid City Christian boys' coach Kyle Courtney said. "For a basketball coach it’s kind of like Christmas morning a little bit."
"It’s a great time of year," St. Thomas More girls' coach Brandon Kandolin said. "It’s a little hectic making sure we get everything in order, but the thought of another season, the thought of the next three months, seeing how this team is going to progress and seeing where we’re going to end up at (is exciting)."
Across the state, everyone set their eyes on the defending state champs in their class. Here is how the Rapid City schools celebrated the first official day of basketball season:
St. Thomas More
One look in the STM gymnasium paints enough of a picture: the girls' basketball team is expected to win state championships.
The last four Class A crowns have gone to the Cavaliers, and Kandolin said while he knows the road will be long, the goal is to make it a fifth straight state title.
"It’s always a goal. That’s the main goal but in order to get to that main goal we have to set little goals in between and make sure we take care of those," he said. "The first one is to get in shape and get the basketball back in our hands, that’s the first goal."
Kandolin said STM will take things 'game-by-game' starting with a road matchup with Sioux Falls Washington Dec. 9.
The boys' program might not have the recent banners that the girls' program does, but coach David Hollenbeck still expects success, and it starts with the first day of practice.
"The big thing is we really have to slow sown and teach fundamentals, we’ll have to take our time, it’ll be difficult to play some of our early scheduled games. Our first seven games are very difficult this year," he said. "We’ve got some guys who will work hard, we’ve got some pretty good shooters so I hope defensively we’ll be competitive and if we can take care of the basketball and get good shots I think w’ell be able to score."
The boys' will also open on the road at Washington Dec. 9.
Rapid City Stevens
Everyone in Class AA on the boys' and girls' side will be gunning for Sioux Falls O'Gorman this year, as the Knights and Lady Knights won state titles at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center last March.
Stevens will get the first crack at the state champs.
"Our opening weekend will tell us a lot about who we are, what a great way for us to see where we’re at, see what we’re capable of, be able to grow and take that first step," Stevens girls' coach Michael Brooks said. "When you have the defending state champs coming to your house, you have to be prepared and ready to attack."
The first game will be Friday, Dec. 8.
Brooks said it was a good offseason for the Raiders. They went to camps in Nebraska and Iowa and were able to play different state champions from those states.
For Stevens boys' coach Chris Stoebner, the season marks a chance to prove how deep his team is this season.
Last year the Raiders got a lot of production from Mason Archambault and Jacob Martin. Now, they will rely on more players filling bigger roles.
"You haven’t played a game, you’re excited because you feel like we have an opportunity to do some great things this year, we have some new kids and every year is different," he said. "We’ve got a different nucleus of kids this year than we did last year so we’re always excited to see what we can do with certain groups.
"I think a lot of people think we might be down or rebuilding but honestly, being around these kids, we have a group of high basketball IQ kids. I think we can put five kids on the floor that can average 8-10 points per game, now you can’t just concentrate on two guys."
The boys' game against O'Gorman is also Dec. 8
Rapid City Central
The Cobbler girls' team has been anchored by a group of players for the past three seasons who won't be suiting up for Central this year.
The Cobblers graduated a big senior class, but as the basketballs come out of storage, coach Kraig Blomme said he is excited to take on a new team.
"It’s going to be a whole new season for us. There will be new kids in new roles filling some holes for us and hopefully we can become a solid team," he said. "To me, every year is (exciting). Last year when you have a great group of seniors and it's exciting, and this year when you have a group of new players coming to varsity and play a new role its exiting as well."
It's no secret the boys' team didn't win as many games as it wanted to last season, coach T.J. Hay doesn't try to hide from that fact.
The reason he was so excited for the first day of practice is what happened in the offseason.
"We had a really good summer, played a ton of basketball, had kids in the weight room, they set some lofty expectations for themselves and it's time to get started," he said. "You can see that in what they did in the summer. It’s something that, the amount of time they’ve spent in the weight room and in the gym, it carries over into what their expectations are for this year.
"As coaches we have to remind them that they have to show up and compete, we don’t have cupcakes so every game, every night, we have to battle."
Both Cobbler teams head to Gillette, Wyo. for a tournament to start the season Dec. 7. The boys start with Cheyenne Central, Wyo. and the girls' start with Bismarck Legacy, N.D..
Rapid City Christian
For both Christian teams, inexperience is the name of the game.
Girls' coach Paul Anderson said the biggest challenge will be instilling mental toughness in a team that has very little varsity experience.
"We’re very young, but we have a lot of kids back who have been in the program," he said. "Here our focus is the relationship with the lord Jesus, you want to make sure things line up with that. Sometimes you have to push them and say 'yes God is love, but God is also tough love.'
"It’s always exciting, what makes it more exciting is seeing kids in the hallway telling kids how excited they are. It's fun when they're that excited."
The boys' team is dominated by sophomores and juniors, but they have experience from last season. Courtney said the biggest challenge is balancing teaching his young team fundamentals vs. installing different offensive and defensive concepts with only two weeks until the Comets take on Philip Dec. 9.
"I think it’s balance, at least for me," he said. "The first few days we want to set the tone in terms on fundamentals, but we also have to make sure we’re spending time on our offense and defense so you’re ready for those first couple of games."
The girls' team also begins the season Dec. 9 at Philip.