By Bailey Pennycuff / Co-Sports Editor

A team equipped with experienced coaches is a crucial advantage. Especially when it comes to Hutchinson Community College assistant men’s basketball coach, James “Papi” Conley, considering a good portion of his experience as a basketball player was spent at HutchCC.

“I attended HCC from 2015-2017, where I played basketball for two years at point guard,” Conley said.

While he was at HutchCC, he and his teammates accomplished much.

Both years with Conley, the Blue Dragons were conference champions. His freshman year, they lost in the NJCAA national championship game, taking home the runner-up trophy. His sophomore year, the team won the 2016-2017 championship.

Conley, a Derby native, is deeply involved in basketball and he has had a profound connection with the sport for years.

“My love of the game began when I was a kid and started playing at the YMCA at the age of 3,” Conley said.

Any coach should have a clear understanding of the team’s overall goals, as well as some of the goals that may be considered meticulous.

“My overall goal as a coach is to help the players become the best version of themselves on the court, better men off the court and most importantly, to ensure they graduate and move on to the next level,” Conley said. “Some goals for the season would be helping players learn the game as much as possible, and also bring back another championship.”

Performance skill is an important aspect of any sport. However, small details, even outside of the game are pertinent to the team’s success. Conley makes sure his team is working on the negligible details.

“I help by making sure that the team is going to classes, staying on top of school work, getting up shots during/after practice, and giving them as much information on what it takes to be a winner and a national champion,” Conley said.

Although his love for the game is strong, his drive in life is sparked from a deeper connection.

“My motivation would be my mother,” Conley said. “After winning the national championship here at HCC, my mother passed – and she was my biggest fan. She is what still drives me to this day.”

Conley’s combination of drive and experience will be an imperative factor into this year’s season for the Blue Dragons.

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