’Important mentally’: ISD basketball teams relish getting in some work

Bill Althaus
Van Horn boys basketball coach Max Sollars, center, speaks with his team and Truman's team during Friday's workout at Van Horn. Van Horn is hosting fellow Independence School District teams Truman and William Chrisman for summer workouts amid the coronavirus pandemic.

It was nearly an hour before his Van Horn High School boys basketball team was set to scrimmage friendly Independence rivals Truman and William Chrisman on the Falcons’ home court, but coach Max Sollars already had his game face on.

“Isn’t this great?” Sollars asked, as members of the three teams warmed up on the court. “We’re trying to get back to normal – whatever normal is these days – and this is such a great way to do it.

“We have so much respect for Coach (Rod) Briggs at Truman and Jake (Kates) at Chrisman and they bring their teams over here and the guys get to get some good work in.”

Van Horn was practicing at one end of the court, Chrisman at the other while the Patriots were taking shots at a midcourt basket.

There was friendly banter, smiles and a sense of normalcy.

When asked about the lack of familiar faces on the court, Sollars said, “The great thing about these practices is that we all get to get playing/practice time for our younger kids.

“Our guys, and the players from Truman and Chrisman who play AAU ball can come over and get some work in, but today is mainly for the younger guys who only play for their high schools.”

With one exception – Van Horn’s Jaden Monday, a member of The Examiner’s 2019 All-Area first team this past winter. Monday, who will be a senior this fall, averaged 23.7 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game last year. He shot 41 percent from the field, 33 percent from 3-point range, 80 percent from the free throw line and surpassed 1,000 career points as a junior.

“You can’t keep Jaden off the court,” Sollars said of the All-Crossroads Conference and all-district point guard. “If the gym is open, you’re going to find Jaden in here.”

When he wasn’t encouraging his younger teammates, Monday was drilling 3-pointers and showing off his silky smooth approach to driving the lane.

“This is great,” Monday said. “We have so many new guys on the team coming up to our practices and this gives us a chance to get to know each other and get in some work.

“And since it’s against Truman and Chrisman you have that rivalry feeling, which makes it even better.”

Chrisman’s Dayne Herl agrees.

“I think that these practices are as important mentally as they are physically,” the sophomore guard said. “We’re out here for two hours, having fun, playing basketball and not worrying about everything going on in the world.

“We don’t even know for sure what’s going to happen this fall or winter, but we’re playing basketball with our brothers and it’s great.”

Briggs spent much of the practice at midcourt, watching the four-on-four, half-court games with an eye to the future.

“We lost so many great seniors last year, but we have a lot of young talent coming up,” Briggs said. “This gives the young guys a chance to get some competition in this summer if they aren’t playing AAU ball – and you can see that everyone is having fun.”