Tyson Nelson of Shelley brings the ball up the floor during a recent jamboree. The senior will be one of the leaders of the Russets this season.

SHELLEY – The Shelley Russets have been through a bad stretch in their athletic programs. Ever since the move to the 4A ranks a little over a year ago, the wins have been hard to come by. In fact, in some sports, they’ve been next to impossible to come by.

A year ago, Shelley coach Wally Foster not only had a team that couldn’t win a basketball game, his four main players, all seniors, kept reminding him of the storied history of the athletic programs at Shelley High School. The school was used to winning and expected to win and the fact that the basketball team, void of any real basketball stars, didn’t win a single game a year ago was hard to handle.

This year will be different. Foster has recruited some help in the form of Art Poulsen, formerly of Firth High School, and the two “old school coaches” are able to communicate what they want from the players to a new group of players. This new group doesn’t have any memories of the glory days of Shelley, where all they had to do was walk out on the floor and the players on the other team were shaking in their boots because the Russets were in town.

This new group of players are young, some of them really inexperienced, but eager to learn and play and figure out how to win some games.

The Russets played in a jamboree the other night, and although they may not have won either of the games that they played, they showed hustle, talent and a willingness to do things the way the coaches wanted them to do them.

They are lean and athletic and they move well on the court. They are willing to hustle and rebound and play defense and that is the best that you can hope for to start with when you are working with a new group of players.

The best thing is that the best player among them in the end is only a sophomore and he actually has a basketball IQ and knows something about the history of the game. That is going to go a long way as this team learns about winning and playing together as a team. This is a huge step forward for the program and should yield some dividends before the new year.

The biggest hurdle that the Russets are facing this year is that they are still in the High Country Conference and that is a very tough conference to try and establish yourself as a 4A power. The Russets are still pretty much a 3A team with just enough students to be forced to play a 4A schedule.

Three juniors and a sophomore stood out as the players to watch during that recent jamboree and they are Treyce Jensen, Braxton Miskin, Alex Lott and Jaxon Hess. Don’t be surprised if you hear their names mentioned a lot by the time the season hits January and the games are even more important as the team drives toward a seeded spot in the District 6 tournament.

If they are able to step things up just a bit and gel as a team, they could be something fun to watch. They already have the basics down pat, they just need to get comfortable with themselves and match their coaches’ enthusiasm for the game.

If they can get all of that done in the next four or five weeks, fans in Shelley will have a great time watching this bunch get after it as they play down the stretch in search of a chance to get to the state tournament.

2019-20 Shelley Russets Basketball schedule:

Tuesday, December 3 Preston AWAY 7:30 p.m.

Friday, December 6 Pocatello HOME 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, December 7 Century HOME 7:30 p.m.

Thursday, December 12 Thunder Ridge HOME 7:30 p.m.

Tuesday, December 17 Preston HOME 7:30 p.m.

Friday, December 20 Thunder Ridge AWAY 7:30 p.m.

Friday, January 3 Hillcrest AWAY 7:30 p.m.

Thursday, January 9 Blackfoot HOME 7:30 p.m.

Friday, January 17 Skyline HOME 7:30 p.m.

Tuesday, January 21 Idaho Falls HOME 7:30 p.m.

Thursday, January 23 Sugar-Salem HOME 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, January 25 Hillcrest HOME 7:30 p.m.

Tuesday, January 28 Sugar-Salem AWAY 7:30 p.m.

Wednesday, January 29 Idaho Falls AWAY 7:30 p.m.

Friday, January 31 Bonneville HOME 7:30 p.m.

Wednesday, February 5 Blackfoot AWAY 7:30 p.m.

Friday, February 7 Skyline AWAY 7:30 p.m.

Wednesday, February 12 Bonneville AWAY 7:30 p.m.

Tuesday, February 18 District 6 Tournament TBA TBA