Some familiar names and faces will be in some different roles, as the Laramie Plainsmen basketball team opens its 2018-19 season in Riverton this weekend.

Laramie plays in the Strannigan Classic against Cody, Rock Springs, and Green River.

Travis Brown is now in his third season leading the Plainsmen basketball program. His main focus with the team this season in making more progress.

“We’re hoping so. Things are going in the right direction. Numbers are up. Kids are excited. Retention’s been good since they were sophomores till now, so yeah, just building, having fun, building chemistry, and keep working hard.”

Laramie was 10-15 last season with a 4-8 mark in the 4A East Conference. Despite doubling their win total from Coach Brown’s first season, the Plainsmen lost for a second straight year in the first round at the regional tournament, and thus, did not qualify for state.

There is one returning starter for Laramie in senior Hudda Herrera, but nine total lettermen are back. There are a few players like seniors Will Tyser and Brady Epler, plus juniors Connor Killpack and Tyler Oppie, who have also started some games in their career.

Brown says, “The varsity experience will be nothing new to a lot of these kids, which is great, but I think the additional expectations that now when you’re the person with a target on your chest is a little bit different. When you had a Nate (Burman) and a Chad (Browning) in the past, and an Asa (Williams), and some of those guys, it took pressure off of them. They may not have been the guy’s teams were game-planning against, and now they’ll be those guys. That’s just a different role, and I think they’re willing to embrace it, and I think this first couple of weeks will hopefully set the stage for them to understand how to move forward with that.”

Herrera and Tyser joined KOWB’s David Settle for a look at their upcoming season. They discussed how practice has gone to the mood on the team, expectations, chemistry, and more.

One thing Brown is very happy with is their team chemistry. He really feels they like each other and are having fun, and advocating for one another.

“That’s the first part, they want to be here. The next part is us (the coaching staff) just being consistent and giving them a consistent message on what our expectations are for them, whether it’s defensively, offensively, or even just for that matter bench decorum. Our goal this year is really to be celebrating each other’s successes, and just not our individual successes.”

New to the staff is assistant coach Dan Bleak. Brown praised his knowledge, particularly with Xs and O’s. They’ve tweaked things defensively and hope to force opponents to shoot from deep and be more disciplined. They’re also staying with a more free movement system on offense, which they started transitioning to late, last season.

Laramie lost some good size from the past two seasons, so they’ll look a little more guard-oriented. They were also impacted by injuries. Brown is hopeful they can stay healthy and don’t have to adjust personnel so much this season.

“The guard-thing doesn’t bother me. It kind of just means, if you can get that chip on their shoulder bought in a little bit bigger, you know, that hey, you’re undersized, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t play with a lot of heart, and that heart can actually make you look a lot bigger than you are.”

Brown added the first weekend should be fun, as they finally play someone other than themselves. He also knows it will be challenging seeing three different styles in their opponents in Riverton.

Laramie takes on Cody at 6 p.m. Thursday at Riverton High School. Their other two games will be at Riverton Middle School on Friday at 7:30 p.m. versus Rock Springs, and then on Saturday at 3 p.m. against Green River.

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