Intensity is the name of the game for Summit High School boys basketball team |

Intensity is the name of the game for Summit High School boys basketball team

The Summit High School varsity boys basketball team practices Tuesday, Dec. 3, at Summit High in Breckenridge.
Liz Copan /

BRECKENRIDGE — Finding wins the year after replacing the Summit High School single-season scoring record holder might seem like a daunting task for the varsity boys basketball team after the departure of 2019 grad Wyatt Buller and his 20.3 points per game.

That said, the year-over-year comparison of the 2018-19 Summit Tigers and the 2019-20 squad is hardly an apples-to-apples comparison — even if a lot of the personnel is the same.

Last year’s squad was a team centered around Buller’s ability to get buckets — a whopping 466 points in total. This year’s team feels it can play a brand of basketball where any one of several players, including guys off the bench, can lead the team in scoring on any given night.

On Tuesday evening, Jordan Buller, Wyatt’s older cousin and the fourth-year head coach of the Tigers, looked out on the Summit High hardwood and sized up his team as practice began. At the core of it all was a senior leader and the team’s tallest player — 6-foot-3, 160-pound Dylan Huston — providing the vocal and energetic leadership Coach Buller said this team has to be built around.

Similar to Summit High basketball history, this year’s Tigers don’t have the sheer size to tower over teams. But what this team does have is long athletes from guard through center who not only have the ability to be versatile in Coach Buller’s aggressive man-to-man defense but also have enough basketball skill to manifest offense out of the energy they bring to the court.

Coach Buller commended Huston as well as his two fellow senior leaders, 5-11 senior wing Corbin Furrey and 6-foot senior guard Ben Rider for setting the tone before Wednesday’s season-opener.

“We just got to bring the intensity every practice so we are used to it every game,” Huston said.

On the defensive end, Coach Buller prides himself on the style of traditional, see-ball, see-man and ball-pressure man-to-man defense he grew up honing in the basketball hotbed of Indiana. The coach also understands that (although he has the versatile athletes who can switch on screens and guard multiple spots on the floor) without ball pressure from Summit’s guards, the Tigers’ bigs will struggle to front and defend bigger, beefier forwards and centers in the post.

Summit boys basketball

Dec. 4-7: Falcon Challenge Tournament, Skyline HS
Dec. 11: vs. Middle Park, 7 p.m.
Dec. 12: vs. Evergreen, 7 p.m.
Dec. 18: at West Grand, 7 p.m.
Dec. 20: vs. Conifer, 7 p.m.
Jan. 9: vs. JFK, 7 p.m.
Jan. 11: vs. Palisade, 2 p.m.
Jan. 14: at Glenwood Springs, 7 p.m.
Jan. 17: vs. Battle Mountain, 7 p.m.
Jan. 21: vs. Buena Vista, 7 p.m.
Jan. 23: vs. Rifle, 7 p.m.
Jan. 25: at Palisade, 2 p.m.
Jan. 28: vs. Rifle, 7 p.m.
Jan. 30: at Moffat County, 7 p.m.
Jan. 31: at Steamboat Springs, 7 p.m.
Feb. 4: vs. Glenwood Springs
Feb. 7: at Battle Mountain, 7 p.m.
Feb. 11: at Rifle, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 13: at Lake County, 5:30 p.m.
Feb. 15: at Eagle Valley, 2 p.m.
Feb. 22: vs. Steamboat Springs

As such, Coach Buller expects these Tigers to play hectic, chaotic defense that leans on Summit’s depth and can gas opponents at their homecourt above 9,000 feet.

In order to guard like that as a team, Summit will look partially to long, strong athletes from other sports, such as Tigers junior football quarterback Cam Kalaf, wide receiver Kobe Cortright and Tigers rising lacrosse star Andrew Duxbury.

“I’m pretty excited about the physicality that (Summit football) Coach (James) Wagner really was bringing to the football program this year,” Coach Buller said. “And you can see it in the way those guys are moving on the court. They aren’t as timid as I feel I’ve seen guys be at Summit in the past. They are not afraid of contact. They are ready to play big hands-on defense and cover a lot of ground.”

Once Summit secures the ball, Coach Buller would like his team to flip like a light switch from the hectic defensive energy to poised ball handling. Much of that duty will fall to point guard Hector Diaz, a 5-10, 155-pound junior who spent much time over the summer in the gym grinding with Wyatt Buller. Coach Buller believes if Diaz can confidently play with the ideal pace for this squad, gauging the feel of each game dynamically, the Tigers will be able to find scoring from all different spots out of their motion offense.

When Buller looks down his bench for production, of the multiple options he’ll have, one he is excited for is junior Marcus Popoff. The versatile 6-1, 155-pound junior can play on the wing or post and is showing promise after a summer of hard work.

Coach Buller knows to improve on last season’s 5-18 record the biggest element of the game he’s trying to get across to his squad is the variable of imposing your will on the opponent. The coach understands the best team in general doesn’t always win. The best team on that specific day does. And the more Summit can play confidently within its team style, the more likely it can be the best team on a given day.

“It’s about dictating what’s happening on the floor at all times, but that’s a hard thing,” the coach said. “But we are going to try and work hard to do that every night and every day, and we’ll see where it goes.”

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