HOWELL — Nick Simon wants to get a fast start on his Howell boys basketball team’s goals this season.
“Our big thing is we want to get past districts and get to that next level, where we’re trying to compete for the highest level of the state tournament consistently, and I think that starts from the first game of the year,” he said Monday.
The HIghlanders, who ended a long district title drough with a run to the quarterfinals four seasons ago, begin their latest quest tonight when they open the season at Linden. The game will be broadcast on The Livingston Post at about 7 p.m.
Howell (16-6) will take on a Linden team that went 8-15 last year. The Eagles endured a 10-game losing streak, then hit its stride in districts, winning a Class A district crown by beating Grand Blanc before losing in the regional semifinals.
The Highlanders did the same, winning their district before falling to West Bloomfield in a regional semifinal.
“We don’t know a whole lot about (Linden) right now,” Simon said. “We know they had a solid year and ended on a high note. I know how big that is for a program and I know they hadn’t had a ton of sucess prior to last year. But winning a district is huge, and it can get a program on the right side of things. So we’re going to give them our full attention.”
It’s been an offseason of change for the Highlanders under Simon, who have upgraded their schedule while trying to adjust to the usual changes that come with graduation.
“We’re going to focus on defense (tonight),” he said. “Offensively, you’re going to be a bit rusty. Things have to be fine-tuned. Offense is finesse. Defense is effort, toughness, going out to battle, rebounding. Those are the things we’re going to look for. I’m going to really focus on us getting stops, then rebounds and getting out and going (on offense).”
That’s the challenge all basketball teams face over the course of a season, working on the small things while chasing big goals, one game at a time.
“It’s the first game of the year,” senior Johnny Shields said, ‘so we have a lot of stuff to concentrate on, mainly defensively because we’ve got to get that down first. (Tonight) is our biggest game of the year, so we have to win that.”