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Tigers turning up the intensity

FARMER’S KORNER – Everything Mike Rathgeber is selling, the Summit High School boys basketball team is buying.

The new head coach came to town with a no-nonsense approach that’s been proven over a long coaching career. It didn’t take long this preseason for the Summit players to respond to his demanding style, and it should make them a better team this season.

“We’re learning this year it’s all about how we practice,” said senior point guard Todd Wegner. “Everyone has stepped it up in practice because (Rathgeber) won’t accept anything less.”



The changed atmosphere in practice will go along with a new plan for games. Summit will go away from the zone defense they’ve used in the recent past in favor of a pesky, man-to-man philosophy. It’s a style that will help the Tigers control the tempo and energy of a game.

“We get a lot more fired up playing a man than if you just kind of sit back in a zone,” said senior Charles Willis.



Offensively, the team plans to run fast-breaks as much as it can, and when it can’t, it plans to shoot 3-pointers.

The Tigers are undersized, especially relative to the Class 4A Jeffco League, which it enters from the Metro League this season. Summit’s big men are senior Alan Widdifield and sophomore Mike Holloway, both of whom approach 6-foot-4.

Widdifield grew up in Summit County but spent his first three years of high school out of state. His return this season was a pleasant surprise for the Tigers.

But Summit isn’t planning on dominating the post. It’s success will be based on disrupting the opponent’s offense and outlasting it with fast-breaks and superior conditioning.

“This program is about defense,” Rathgeber said. “It’s about stopping people from doing what they want to do. It’s about testing their resolve at this elevation and seeing if they can run with us for four quarters.”

The Tigers must also be successful from 3-point range. For this, it will depend shooters Paul Middel, Dan Soller, Casey Anderson, Todd Heller, Cory Olson and Willis.

Willis is nursing a shoulder injury sustained in a preseason scrimmage and should be back in two to three weeks. He is the team’s most conditioned athlete – a star cross country runner – and he will be a force on defense. He and Wegner are co-captains.

Rathgeber plans to juggle his lineup until the playoffs begin Feb. 24. Sometimes he’ll go with both Holloway and Widdifield in the middle, sometimes just one. His shooters will rotate, and all 11 varsity players should see significant court time.

The only definite is that Wegner will run the floor as the full-time point guard.

“We don’t want (one) shooter, cause that’s too easy to stop,” Rathgeber said. “We want to be able to put three legitimate threats around the perimeter and combine that with a little bit of a threat underneath.”

Being an undersized team in a new league will be a struggle for the Tigers. But they are worrying more about establishing themselves as a tough opponent than winning games.

“If my team plays blood-and-guts basketball, I don’t care how it turns out in wins and losses,” Rathgeber said. “And I really think we’ll surprise some people come February.”


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