DAYTON - Three games isn't enough to get a read on a basketball team, but if those contests indeed become the season-long example of the how the Dayton Dust Devils boys' basketball team is going to play then fans are in for an exciting style of basketball.
The Dust Devils have employed an up-tempo style of play, similar to what has become the hottest trend in professional and college hoops. While the style, thus far, has proven to have made them more likely to turn the ball over, it has also given them an opportunity to score in bunches, making it so they are virtually never out of a game.
"I think it's way more exciting; way more opportunities to do something," junior guard Kage Walker said.
Fast is how the Dust Devils' first-year coach Jason Santos likes to play and the style he preferred when he was still sporting a jersey. Santos, who grew up in Lovelock, played two years at Feather River College in Quincy, Calif., before a string of injuries shortened his collegiate career.
"(I would describe myself as a) slasher, shot well from the perimeter," Santos said. "I prefer to play in an up-tempo style and that's a huge learning curve for them right now. It's a totally different philosophy from last year to this year. Last year they were used to coming down to half court after walking it down the court, flex for layups. This year I want them full-court man, run-and-gun, running and jumping and getting layups. I don't like to play half court offense."
Santos knows about the half-court style too. He coached the junior varsity team and assisted on varsity for the last four years under former coach T.W. Cunningham, who is now the coach at Fallon High.
Asked about the difference between the two coaches, one player pointed to the level of coaching itself.
"The biggest thing is a lot more coaching," senior guard Connor Conroy said. "To be honest with you, that's it.
"More intensity, more coaching. He likes the game more than (coach) Cunningham did."
Conroy knows Santos fairly well. Aside from coaching the junior varsity team, Santos has been a part of summer and open-gym sessions and at 30 years old isn't that much older than any of his players.
"I feel like I relate to them really well," Santos said. "I feel like I've got a close relationship with most of them. Also the JV kids and two sophomores, I've coached them since they were in seventh grade."
Through the first three games, the Dust Devils' wins were marred by turnovers largely due to inconsistent play and trying to make passes and take shots in traffic. But despite the errors, they picked up wins nonetheless.
"It's been a huge learning curve already, I didn't think it would take this long to figure it out," Santos said before the first game of the year. "They don't fill lanes right, they don't see the floor, but they're figuring it out."