By TYLER HENRY
Salina Post contributor
After an impressive 16-7 campaign that saw Abilene punch a ticket to the state tournament, the Cowboys will look to retool and run it back for the 2022-23 season.
Abilene will once again be under the direction of head coach Erik Graefe, who enters his third season at the helm for the Cowboys.
Over the offseason, Abilene graduated a big trio of seniors, but return a ton of talent for the upcoming year, with a projected starting five that should look something like this when the first game tips off.
G Grant Waite (Sr)
G Triston Cottone (Sr)
G/F Stocton Timbrook (Jr)
G/F Keaton Hargrave (Jr)
F Kyson Becker (Jr)
Ahead of the 2022-23 tip-off, we had a chance to speak with Coach Graefe, to get his thoughts on this year’s Cowboys.
Q: What were your overall thoughts on the 2021-22 campaign?
A: When you look at the big picture it was a good year. To do well in our league and to get to state again are really good things. It’s hard to divorce all of that from the way we got pounded in that last game but in the grand scheme of things I was pleased with how the season went.
Q: How excited is everyone to get back on the floor and back to playing real games after a long offseason?
A: There’s a lot of excitement and the first week of practice really feeds on that energy. Now that we’re in the second and third week and the reality is starting to set in that this is a lot of hard work and we have to climb the mountain again from the bottom but our guys are ready to play.
Q: Coming into the year what would you say is the biggest strength of this team?
A: Our strength is in our guards, there’s no question about it. We have two senior starters back in Grant Waite and Triston Cottone. Having those guys back is huge.
Q: What are the biggest question marks about this team as we head into the first few weeks?
A: When you have a dominant player like Kaleb Becker for four years there was never really a question about where the ball was going in critical situations and you could pencil in 17 points and 10 rebounds a night but that’s gone. I’m going to have to coach better and our guys are going to have to step up as we find out who’s going to score for us and where those big shots are going to come from.
Q: What are the goals and expectations of this team for this 2022-23 campaign?
A: We really just want to be an excellent, unselfish basketball team that plays the hardest that we possibly can. John Wooden at UCLA never talked about winning, they just talked about being an excellent basketball team and we’ve adopted a similar philosophy and hope that the wins and losses take care of themselves.
Abilene will tip off their 2022-23 season on Friday, December 2nd when the Cowboys travel to Smoky Valley to battle the Vikings.
For continuing coverage of Abilene boys’ basketball all season long, stay tuned to the Salina Post.