Killeen spent the offseason preparing for a run at the District 12-6A title but not in a way most would expect.
It was the players who made a shift in focus to team bonding off the court and not head coach Reggie Huggins.
The team sat together and cheered at almost all the Lady Kangaroos’ volleyball matches and Killeen football games.
“Oh yeah, that’s all them,” Huggins said.
The Kangaroos believe the time spent together away from the court is already beginning to translate into their in-game chemistry.
“Yeah, we’ve spent a lot of time together,” senior Jackson Taylor said. “We’re just always together, so it feels natural when we play together on the court.”
From grabbing dinner to hanging out in the school’s halls before practice, it is very rare the Kangaroos are not together.
“Out of my years in high school, so far, this is probably my favorite team,” junior Mike House said. “We talk a lot more, we communicate a lot more, and the energy seems a lot better.”
Killeen has six players returning from last season in Taylor, House, Cortez Ivie, Willie McGee, Jaylon Ellis and Devonte Garrett.
Coming off a senior-heavy season last year, Ellis had the least amount of playing time out of the returning group.
“He was on varsity the whole year, so he’s been able to see what was going on,” Huggins said. “He’s had a real good season so far.
“He’s got his confidence going, and the team is really rallying behind him.”
This season will be all about
adjusting for Ellis, who has seen a shift in his role on the squad.
“Coming off the bench last year was kind of a tough thing, especially toward the end of the season,” Huggins said. “His role has changed, because now he’s an integral part, and he has to go out there and take a few more risks.
“But that’s what we want him to go out there and do, and we want him to do the best he can.”
While Killeen has a solid group of returning players, the Kangaroos are using the time before district to get the rest of the players up to speed.
“Getting the new guys involved is my goal,” House said, “because just five guys can’t get the job done.
“So, I want to be more vocal and step up in case someone else falls down.”
Taylor knows what it is like to be the new guy, who is trying to find his role and get involved on the court.
Last fall as a junior, he transferred to Killeen after his father was stationed at Fort Hood.
Taylor made the varsity team and quickly emerged as a power forward who can take lead of the offense with his control of the ball and ability to read the floor when needed.
While he can help the new guys adjust, Taylor is working to make a bigger impact on the floor.
“Our team is a lot different from last year,” Taylor said. “So, I still have to produce more, especially on the scoreboard.
“I also have to be a good defender, especially on the outside as they come into the paint.”
When the Kangaroos return from the holiday break, they will head to the South San Antonio tournament, beginning play Tuesday.
Killeen opens district play Dec. 4 at Copperas Cove.