By Mike Tupa


mtupa@examiner-enterprise.com


Nowata High School boys basketball opponents beware.


As a group of youngsters last year, the Ironmen crusaded to a 17-8 record.


Guess what?


The Ironmen graduated only one starter off that combustible crew, which scored 60-or-more points 13 times.


Needless to say, head coach Gary Hollingshed is fine-tuning a potentially powerful machine.


The Ironmen face their first test Tuesday evening when the Hominy Bucks come to Nowata. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m.


His veteran first-stringers back in mix are three All-Conference warriors — Gabe Velasco, Mark Price and Dillon Barnes — along with guard Trenton Smith.


Hollingshed has tabbed forward Josiah Clark as his new starter.


Velasco is slated to be the point guard. Barnes and Clark are set to provide the inside presence.


“Last year, everybody we had were new,” Hollingshed said. “Our experience was low. It took a long time to learn to play together. This year, they have a full season under their belts.”


The squad is seasoned by plenty of savvy but still can’t wear out any tape measures.


Barnes and Price are a standing on a lemon peel away from being 6-foot-1, while Clark is somewhere between 5-foot-11 and 6-foot, Hollingshed said.


But, what Nowata lacks in verticality it more than makes up with in other blazing assets.


“We have to play fast,” Hollingshed said. “We have to disguise what we do, jump in and out of zones and create a little chaos.”


Hollingshed plans this season to turn his players “loose a little more so that we can be more up tempo. … We’ll be kind of more hands off and see if they can run it on their own.”


The ongoing emphasis is on sharpening the defense.


“We can make up for our size with effort and energy,” Hollingshed said. “How much we can buy in defensively will get the tone for the year.”


Hollingshed said he’s not sure what to expect of from Hominy, which has a new head coach and a fresh system.


“Traditionally they’re always good and always tough,” Hollingshed said.