By Cleary Percy
For Tommy DeSalme, the sky’s the limit for 2023-2024 Hutchinson Community College men’s basketball.
After an up and down season last year, DeSalme, entering his third year as coach, believes that a small but meaningful core of three sophomores along with a talented freshman class can return Blue Dragon basketball back to heights from year’s past.
Dre Weathers, Kernan Bundy, and Landon Wagler return from last year’s team and will look to guide the team to new heights.
“We want to win a conference championship, a regional championship, if you do those things you’re putting yourself in the mix for a national championship … the expectations are for us to compete for championships,” said DeSalme, who led the Blue Dragons to the second round of the NJCAA Tournament two years ago.
DeSalme noted that both the regional tournament finals and the national tournament finals are being played on the Blue Dragons home court.
“If you’ve ever been to a game here, there’s nothing better than a game when Hutch is playing,” DeSalme said. “That place has a whole different level of excitement and atmosphere.”
In terms of the playstyle of this year’s team, DeSalme seemed to put an emphasis on speed, versatility, and bringing a style to the court that is unique.
He noted that every team wants to play fast, but it requires consistency and a level of effort on everything that’s practiced, both offensively and defensively.
DeSalme also believes the team has the potential to be a great shooting team as the season goes on.
Team chemistry can make or break a season, and DeSalme said he believes that the team likes to be around each other.
“They like to be in the gym,” DeSalme said. “If you’ve got a team like that that has a competitive desire to go out and compete on a daily basis, not just on game night, then you’ve got a special group.”
Amillion Buggs, a freshman who transferred from Central Missouri, looks to be a key part of the versatility that DeSalme talked about. Buggs says he has been getting practice reps at multiple positions in practice, and says he’s able to play both guard, forward and center. This versatility could be a key factor in winning games down the stretch; if players need a breather, other players, like Buggs, can step into positions they don’t normally play to help the team.
Amillion, who is 6 feet, 4 inches says his playstyle has been influenced the most by one particular NBA star.
“Everybody will probably laugh when I say this, but it’s LeBron (James),” Buggs said. “He’s always looking to make the right play.”
Buggs says his versatility and ability to guard positions one through five is what he brings to the team as an individual player.
The Blue Dragon’s open play on Friday at the Sports Arena, playing host to North Idaho College in the first game of the BSN classic.