By Dan Hardenbrook

It’s no secret that the new season has gotten off to a challenging start for the Engadine Eagles boys basketball team. They’ve had a series of hurdles. But new Coach Ty Elenbaas knows his guys won’t just give up.

There was the long delay to the season that limited practices and a quick start that rushed everyone back on the floor. Then the JV season was cancelled due to low numbers, so the would-be JV players had to put on a varsity uniform with no time to develop. All of this came after the longtime coach left town to take another job.

Elenbaas may be new, but he knows what to expect, and he is proud of the way his team is handling itself.

Following another loss in a hard fought close game against Cedarville last week, one in which the Eagles kept coming back from several double digit deficits, Elenbaas praised the character of his kids. “I just think it’s the integrity of our guys,” he said. “That’s them. They don’t quit.”

He has seen his players carry themselves the right way regardless of the situation.

Elenbaas makes sure nobody sits on the bench the entire game. He looks at it as a way to give kids an opportunity after all that they do.

“Those guys earn it. They show up every day in practice and they work hard,” he said. “The message is that if you show up and you work hard, you will get an opportunity to contribute on game night.”

The players respond to that. “What I really love about this team is how they cheer for each other,” Elenbaas said. “It doesn’t matter who is out there or what crew is in the game or on the bench. They are there for each other and they have each other’s back which is really cool.”

Former longtime coach Walter Hanson used a simple communication tool for years that Elenbaas has continued. He asks them what they think during timeouts and in between quarters. Instead of shouting, or demanding his players do something a certain way, he encourages them to be open and communicate what they see and think as the game goes on.

“Collectively they are way smarter than I am,” he said. “The more that they take ownership in what we are doing and how we do it, the better we will be together. They are a smart group of young men. When it comes to them, my job is easy.”

Win or lose, there are two things he wants his team to remember: character and integrity are just as important as the final score.

“I told them tonight after the loss that I’m not satisfied,” he said. “We wanted this game and I wish I could’ve got it for the guys. But they showed up and gave it everything they had. They always show up and work hard and I’m happy to see that. I think when you mention character and our integrity, it hits the nail on the head. I’m very pleased and I’m proud of them for that.”