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Jets' victories down, but players' character soars

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HOPE — Heading into the Christmas break with an 0-7 record and coming off a 97-30 loss, it can be hard to feel blessed.

When you consider that the team is Hauser, the two-time defending sectional champion, you might expect the coaches and players would be pulling a major “Bah! Humbug!”

But then you would be misjudging Jets head coach Bob Nobbe and his players.

Sure, their turkey dinner might not taste quite the same, but that doesn’t mean their hopes are dimmed for a bright future.

Nobbe, coaching his 19th season at Hauser, said the situation is only dismal if you let it be that way. “You learn a lot about yourself and your team,” he said.

What Nobbe has learned is that the Jets aren’t going to let a tough start kill their passion for the game. “Our players are extremely positive,” Nobbe said. “They are extremely hard workers.

“I have to credit these young kids. Their true desire is to become better basketball players. When you win, things are easy. But this gives you a chance to see some of that character.”

Take away the scoreboard, and fans would have a tough time knowing the Jets have yet to win a game. They move the ball well on offense, block out around the basket and play some tenacious defense.

But like most inexperienced teams, the Jets have those lapses when everything goes south in a hurry. Then it’s back to fundamentally sound basketball.

For instance, the Jets had one of their best quarters of the season against Columbus North, but they just aren’t ready to put long stretches of fundamentally sound basketball together. “You want to pull out victories within a game,” Nobbe said. “There is no question that Columbus North is one of the best teams in the state. But we weren’t intimidated against them and we executed.”

In the end, the Bull Dogs pulled away to a 94-53 victory. “But we had a lot of bright spots,” Nobbe said. “Now we have to find some consistency.”

Since his program has been so successful over the years, Nobbe always schedules a tough non-conference slate of games to prepare his team for Mid-Hoosier Conference play. This season, that schedule has been a grind.

Greensburg, which knocked off the Jets 97-30 on Friday, is the No. 1-ranked team in 3A.

“There is no question that it can be frustrating on game nights when you go home,” said Nobbe, who is 47. “But you know you are going to be back on Monday and these kids will be excited to improve. That gets you excited. You always hope that frustration turns into motivation.”

Nobbe admits that he is better suited to deal with the current situation than he might have been 10 years ago. “You change over time with your experiences and in the way you handle the kids,” he said. “You draw upon those experiences. And it also helps having your own kids at home. It helps you to approach things differently. I know our kids are working as hard as they can.”

While a solid feeder system has stocked Hauser with students who love to play basketball, circumstances left the Jets a little short this season ... literally.

Against North, a team that doesn’t start a player under 6-foot-2, Hauser’s tallest starting player was 6-foot-3 Ryan Christy. The Jets don’t have a senior on the roster.

Nobbe said he can go up and down his lineup and name players who are making whatever sacrifice necessary to help the squad. “Rory Thayer is our point guard and he is just a sophomore,” Nobbe said. “We are asking him to be a strong leader and to communicate.

“With (junior) Trey Shipley, it’s the same thing. We are shifting him around, playing him everywhere from the post to sometimes at point guard.

“Mason Ramsey (a sophomore) is in our starting lineup, and like some of our other players, he would have been playing junior varsity. It’s taken him some time to get used to the speed of the game. But he keeps getting better. We have a lot of guys who are stepping into new roles, and they are getting better, too. Look at (junior) Aaron Branum. He has just done fantastic. He has worked his way into a starting spot and he is improving daily.”

The prize for this particular Hauser team has to be improvement, and not wins, at least at this point. “The coaching staff makes sure our players know that they are getting better,” Nobbe said. “We have had seasons where we have struggled early, although not to this extent. But we’ve got kids who were thrown right into the fire. Our students are learning they can play at this level. But the wins are going to come.”

So Nobbe looks forward to a season that many might think would be one he would just as soon forget. “It’s extremely rewarding to walk into the gym with these guys,” he said. “They are going to work hard, and they are going to push themselves to get better.”

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