Coach Ryan Smith

Coach Ryan Smith directs his players during a scrimmage earlier this month. The Demons look to open the season this Tuesday on the road.

This past spring, the Duncan Demons boy’s basketball program made a change in the leadership under new head coach Ryan Smith and with the season upcoming, they look to make strides this year.

Smith, hired back in May 2021, has had a full summer of workouts and a full pre-season to get prepared for the upcoming debut this Tuesday on the road against Ardmore.

Finishing with a record of 9-19 a year ago, Smith will inherit a younger team that has two seniors who will lead the way and he has been impressed with how his team has looked in the pre-season.

“It’s actually a lot better than expected and we’ve got a couple of wins in a tough scrimmage schedule with some young guys,” Smith said. “I am expecting big things for this year and we have an extremely young team, but I’m looking for them to compete hard and play hard every night and win a couple of games that we probably shouldn’t have on paper.”

A season ago, the Demons lost by a point to an Ardmore team that made it to the second round of the Class 5A State Tournament. Now, Duncan will open the year on the road against the Tigers.

Smith knows opening the season against a tough team like Ardmore will get his team battle tested. He hopes the week of practice, despite it being a holiday, will get them ready.

“They are a real tough task,” Smith said. “We want to play our way and we have been training and preparing since Oct. 1 and you know I think that good things can happen when we play the Duncan way. We can’t go out there and play Ardmore’s game and can’t get unsettled or uneasy with everything. We’ve got to keep instilling in them to play the way that we have prepared for and I think that you will be surprised.”

The two seniors the Demons have include Cannon Mitchell and Gavin Lopez who Smith praised as leaders for stepping up during the off-season.

Coach Smith also credited Renji Lin who is a junior and will play guard. Lin has come a long way and has stepped up to be one of the captains for the team.

“They have stepped up as leaders and being the first in drills and setting the tone and expectations,” Smith said. “I am expecting that to continue and I will expect big things from those three.”

Duncan’s varsity team will also have some newcomers who will come in to make some noise with one of those being Mason Imel, who Smith believes will be a big time shooter as a sophomore for Duncan.

Zane Petty will also be another player Smith believes can play all over the court, but he will also rely on sophomore Chris Kouts.

“Those three are all sophomores and I expect them to step in their first time dressing in a varsity uniform and help us a lot with big minutes for those three,” Smith said. “I expect them to come out every night and play hard. I expect them to get better with every game that goes on and of course in basketball, it is a three to four month season and I expect them grow every game. Learn more and watch a lot of film and challenge themselves to get better and let the chips fall where the may.”

With the season beginning on Nov. 30, the Demons will head on the road for the first two games and then open up the home schedule with hosting duties of the Southern Oklahoma Invitational Tournament.

As the season tips-off, Smith believes the goals for the year will be vastly different than when he came into the program although the program is growing into a contender.

“I look for us to be at the end of the season and look back because if you remember when I started at Cameron I had eight nine guys that haven’t played basketball in two years,” Smith said. “I want them to look back over the season and see how much they have grown. Set those expectations within themselves and the wins and losses, let them take care of themselves. We hope to build on the future next year and we only have two seniors and everyone will be coming back, so that is what I’m looking forward to. I’m ready to get started and ready for the city of Duncan and surrounding areas to see the work we have put in.”

Tip-off will take place at 8 p.m. Nov. 30 at Ardmore High School as Duncan will look to start the year with a record of 1-0.

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