Three tips: what Lakota BBB must do to succeed this season

John B. Crane
Devils Lake Journal

LAKOTA – At times, the Lakota Raiders Boys Basketball team struggled on the court. Their 2020-21 season, as a result, did not go as liked for coaches, players and fans alike. A 4-17 record, along with a 1-9 finish over their last 10 regular-season games, certainly did not set the team up effectively during the 2020-21 Class B District 7 Tournament. Although they pulled out a 70-62 win against Warwick during their second game of the tournament, the Raiders ended their season as the loser of a 66-46 battle against Harvey/Wells County. 

The Lakota Boys Basketball team poses for a photo after practice

Now, it is up to four-year Lakota head coach Tyson Ackerman to navigate around a powerful Region 7 gauntlet with a roster not necessarily deep in the depth department. 

As such, it is time for the Raiders to roll up their sleeves, tie their laces and take to the court. Here are three tips for the team heading into the 2021-22 season. 

1. Remain gritty…consistently 

The Raiders might not dictate the pace all that much, but they attempt to capitalize on mistakes. With a smaller roster, the Raiders have made a habit of taking advantage of opposing turnovers. Having a productive day from the free-throw line is also a strategy Lakota has taken to heart. 

To Ackerman, it is about staying on top of the opposing team utilizing better detail. In his mind, this grittiness is what defines his team to the core. 

Should the Raiders wish to make this grittiness count, they will need to show consistency in terms of who is playing every day. This way, the Raiders can definitively maintain a steady array of weapons. 

“Consistency,” Lakota head coach Tyson Ackerman said. “Being there every day, being able to…we had highs, and we had lows last year, but it is one of those things where I would like to just not go up and down. I would like to know who I am coaching every day and what team is going to get off of the bus for every game.” 

2. Take a chance 

The Raiders have become familiar with taking, as Ackerman calls them, “calculated risks.” These “calculated risks” can be anything from taking a charge to attempting a steal. This form of aggression, while risky, helps give the Raiders equal footing when they go up against lengthier and deeper teams. 

Expect the Raiders to look for a chance and take it as soon as it presents itself. 

“I have talked to my guys a lot where…you have to step in and take that charge,” Ackerman said. “You have to dive to the ground. You have to try to take that ball. I get mad in the moment, but in the end, that is what we have to do to win those games. You have your New Rockford’s, your Four Winds, your Harvey’s, your Dakota Prairie’s and those type of teams. We have been in close games with all of those teams, minus maybe Four Winds, but we take advantage of every opportunity you give us…that is what we have to do even be competitive or be in a 10-point quarter or something like that, where, in the third quarter or second half, we have a chance.” 

Although their bench might not be the deepest, the Raiders cannot let teams run over them. Fouls might be precious, but the Raiders still have to show aggressiveness when necessary.

3. Understand the depth behind you 

This season, the Raiders return three seniors to their ranks in Erik Koski, Jack Steffan and Isaak Anthony. The trio will be leaned on heavily, as will the likes of sophomore Zach Gibson (who nailed 20 three-pointers last season) and Ross Thompson (who averaged 10 points and 7.8 rebounds per game last season). 

While their top-to-bottom size might not be there, the collective drive, motor and positioning are. The willingness to step out of the comfort zone to create a play will also need to be there, even if playing time becomes a trade-off. 

“I have said this to the team before, and it is said a lot,” Ackerman said. “What dictates your minutes is your foul trouble. I would like to play you the whole game, [and] I would like to play you the whole half. I would like to play you this many quarters, but if you get in foul trouble, that is what dictates your minutes almost. So, it is one of those things where physicality, you cannot be scared to get a foul, but you can’t get dumb ones, either.” 

The Raiders scored 50 points or more in only six games last season, and while they might not be the scoring juggernaut this year, they will need to recognize the thin depth behind them and play the intelligence game just as effectively as the actual ballgame.