PRATT, Kans.- The 2019 calendar, much like the Kansas landscape, is slowly but steadily progressing towards something new.
The air is turning crisp, with the comfort of the indoors becoming a safe haven for those wanting to escape the oncoming freeze. Though, inside the Dennis Lesh Sports Arena, it would be unwise to anticipate the Pratt Community College gym lacking a fire.
Basketball season is upon us, and for men's basketball coach Sean Flynn, the time has come for the long mornings and late nights to start paying its dividends.
"It's always good to play somebody else," said Flynn. "We're lucky that we can play Indian Hills, one of the best programs in the country and start off against the best, rather than kind of ween our way into the season. It'll be a good test."
You can watch the Beavers play Indian Hills tonight at 7 PM CST right here.
Flynn was previously employed as an assistant at Pratt before accepting the head coaching role in February of 2018. In his first full season as head coach in 2018-19, Flynn, a Boston native, guided the Beavers to three additional wins than the year the before, advancing to the Region VI quarterfinals in Wichita.
Now entering his second season as the head coach of the Beavers, Flynn is still acclimating to the underlying aspects of the head coaching role.
"I miss having time to be out there working with (the players)," Flynn said. "Working on their individual stuff, because I think there has to be a separation. I miss that part, but I know Joe (Penno) is doing a good job.
"Having to slide over and look at things a little more objectively…there's an old saying. You don't want to spend too much time working in your business because you won't spend enough time working on your business. Allowing myself to pull away and evaluate from a different lens is hard."
The Beavers had a busy preseason, hosting the Pratt County Jamboree, traveling to play in the talent-heavy Rocky Mountain Jamboree, while also testing the waters against a solid Division II Fort Hays State team. With the 2019-20 season on the horizon, Flynn pinpointed aspects of his team that should provide early solace, while he hopes his team continues to meet his standards for excellence.
"I've liked our early-offense execution," he said. "I've liked our commitment to playing 94 feet. The guys have worked hard into buying in to defensive spacing. Eventually, that's going to be what separates the league leaders, understanding defensive spacing. If you can understand positioning defensively, going out and finishing plays, the offense will come.
"Concerns would be consistently practicing at a high level. We practice at a high level every day, and if we stay on the same page, are able to correct that, we'll be alright."
The habitat of a junior college basketball program is a varying one. Change is common, if not expected. Less poetically, it's easy to see a lot of roster turnover at a place such as Pratt.
Thusly, with only one returning player from the 2018-19 roster, Flynn still has a number of capable players he can lean on as the new season unfolds.
"We have one guy who played for us last year, Drew Honas," said Flynn. "He's a competitor. He'll do whatever it takes to stop the other team, and that's huge for us because it sets the tempo and expectation on the defensive end. Zool Kueth has been good in the preseason. He's an everyday guy.
It doesn't make much outside wisdom to be familiar with the Bostonian persona. It's a gritty town with gritty people. "Complaining" is undefined in its dictionary because the word doesn't exist. It's a byproduct of how the Beavers are coached, and how the Beavers can be expected to play.
"We'll play harder for longer," Flynn said. "The teams that play harder, longer, have already got the hard part figured out. There are teams that have talent in junior college, there are teams that have no chemistry in junior college, but there are teams that find a way because they play harder for longer. It's the great equalizer."
For those who have yet to see the Beavers play within the friendly confines of the Beaver Dome, your admission guarantees you the viewing of talented young men who can jump high, run fast, and score points. But your attendance also does something else. For the young men that have chosen to make Pratt Community College their temporary home, the chance to pay your respects for their investment in the community is just down the road.
"We're local kids, out-of-state kids, international kids, all striving for something greater than what they've had," Flynn said. "In a way, it's a sign of respect that kids come here and it's a sign of respect of what Pratt Community College has to offer, and ultimately this town.
"They're choosing the values that are synonymous with Pratt. They come here for the quiet, for the ability to focus on what's important, whether that's fixing their grades, their body, their basketball, or their character. I think that idea alone can win over some people."