Following a delayed start to practice, the Laramie Plainsmen finally get their season going this weekend with a pair of games.

Laramie will play Jackson in a neutral site game at Green River as part of the Flaming Gorge Classic at 2:40 p.m. on Friday, though neither team is “officially” part of the tournament. Then, the Plainsmen will have their home opener and Senior Day on Saturday versus 3A Newcastle at 4:30 p.m.

It’s year two for head coach Jim Shaffer. He feels there’s a lot more familiarity with what we’re trying to do.

“Our work ethic has been really good, and right now, I would say we’re a month, maybe, ahead of where we were last year at this time. You know, a lot of that’s they’ve been in the system, they know what we’re trying to do, and they’re used to me.”

Laramie finished with an 11-11 overall record last season. They were 2-4 in the Southeast Quadrant, but went 0-2 in the regional tournament and did not qualify for the state tournament. After a 7-0 start, the Plainsmen struggled and won only 4 of their last 15 games.

As for where his team might fit this season in a highly-competitive Class 4A boys’ division, Shaffer said it’s hard to tell.

“I really don’t know until we get on the court. We finished last year, and we were young. We started two freshmen. We were young (at the end of the year), we thought we were going to have a lot of depth, and then we have two kids move away that were in our top six, so that changes things, obviously. We’ve had a lot of kids step up. We’re having to do things differently because of the situation we’re in this year with the virus, but I really like where we’re at.”

Laramie returns three starters and eight lettermen from last season. They will be counted on to perform at a high level.

Shaffer knows that the eastside of the state, in particular, is going to be very tough. Cheyenne Central, Cheyenne East, Sheridan, Thunder Basin, and Campbell County are all ranked among the top five in the WyoPreps.com Coaches and Media Boys Basketball Poll.

The Plainsmen are getting a late start because they’ve already been through COVID quarantine and began practice 10 days late. That forced their first two games to be rescheduled.

Shaffer admitted it’s had an impact.

“We went two weeks without touching a basketball. We had been in the gym for about a month and were three or four days away from starting (practice), and then we go into a two-week quarantine, not touching the basketball, not doing anything. I think that first practice was Dec. 2. It took us a while to get going because of that two weeks of doing nothing, but like I said, we’re further along than we were last year. We’ve actually, because of not being able to play and not having enough practices last week to play, have gotten more practices in than we would have if we’d have gotten to play last week, so that piece of it hasn’t been bad, but there tired of playing against each other, and it’s time to go play somebody else and get an idea about where the Plainsmen are.”

What’s the player’s perspective? Seniors Garrett Dodd and Kolton Brenneman talked with KOWB’s David Settle about the season ahead, the delay to practice, how things have gone, the first weekend, and more.

Shaffer says with these opening games it’s going to be about playing hard.

“(We want to) be really good defensively and run the floor. We’ve put a huge emphasis on playing defense and being aggressive in the full-court, and trying to run the floor and play 94 feet. I just want to see the effort and the buy-in to that because we didn’t always see that last year.”

He’s like their effort in practice and hopes it translates to the game-floor. Shaffer is a believer that playing hard can cover up some issues you may have, so it’s about the team’s effort.

Laramie plays Jackson at Green River High School on Friday. That game will be broadcast on KOWB (AM 1290), the KOWB app, and online. Saturday’s action against Newcastle will be on Y95 Country (KCGY-FM 95.1) due to a Denver Broncos football game at the same time on KOWB.

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