Members of the state championship team reflect, share tips with younger Jackrabbits

Five players from the winning 2022 and 2023 Greeley County State Championship basketball teams took the stage at the Assembly of God Church Wednesday night, there to share, at Coach Gooch’s request, thoughts about their team and their incredible seasons with elementary and junior high students who had gathered to hear them. 

“I wanted these guys to have an opportunity to be in a comfortable setting and talk to students,” said Coach Gooch. “I know the students in the audience want to be at state some day and I wanted them to have a chance to ask their questions, especially related to the state basketball experience.” 

Seniors Jaxson Brandl,  Isaac Schneider, Titus Sherer,  and Jariath Yanez, along with sophomore Lincoln Shafer, patiently and thoughtfully answered questions posed by the pre-school aged to eighth grade students who attended. The questions were mainly posed by the kids and ranged from how it felt to hit a game winning three-point shot to who their favorite players were in 2K, a basketball video game. 

When asked how it felt to score over 2,000 points, Brandl replied: “It feels unreal, but it also wouldn’t have happened without my teammates. They are the ones that get me the ball when I need it. I’m just really thankful for my teammates and my coaches for having that much faith in me.”

The boys shared experiences and insight with their younger peers, encouraging them to dedicate time and energy to basketball if they want to follow in the team’s footsteps.

“I think the off-season is the most important part of your career,” said Shafer. “It’s whenever no one else is working. During these last couple of summers, any free time we had, we were always in the gym. You were either working or you were in the gym. Hopefully we can keep that up the next couple of years.”

Yanez agreed: “Dedication in the weight room, in the gym; hard work pays off. 

“Getting in the gym, getting your shots up, working on your ball-handling, and mostly working on the fundamentals first, because without the fundamentals you won’t be able to do anything harder or more advanced,” said Sherer. “Put in hours upon hours and 1000s upon 1000s of shots up and you will become a top player for sure.” 

Shafer recalled playing with the older boys when he was in first grade, and they were in third grade. “I didn’t even know I was on offense,” he said, to a laugh from the crowd. 

The five had played together since elementary, learning each other’s styles and building trust in one another.

The team was known for several traits: their fast style of play, their dedication to tough defense, and their ability to continue striving when things weren’t going their way. 

They credited their tough defensive work to a shell drill that they ran in practice nearly every day. 

“It helped us get in the positions we needed to be in, to rotate how we needed to rotate, and move the ball around fast so we could get to our spots fast,” said Sherer. “That’s what lead to most of our offenses - getting defensive stops. Once you’re getting defensive stops and running and conditioning like we did, it’s hard to stop us.” 

They each spoke of the need to keep moving, keep striving after a mistake or a play that doesn’t go their way.

“Stay calm,” said Yanez. “Don’t let it snowball. Thinking about the next one and keep on making more mistakes.”

Brandl agreed. “Accept it. You can’t go back and redo that play.”

“Coach preaches to us: If you aren’t making your shots, find a way to help better the team in a different aspect of the game – rebound, move the ball around, get some assists, penetrate the defense, kick out threes to other players,” said Sherer. “But don’t let it affect your game mentally so that you cause turnovers or something like that.”

When asked how Brandl  felt about another team’s taunting comments ahead of  a state tournament game, he replied: “I didn’t care that much. You don’t need to talk trash on the court. I’d rather let my game talk. I’d rather be remembered as a great player with a great attitude.” 

The Jackrabbits were often described as a team with strong role players. Schneider said that understanding his role on the team was key to his success as a player.

“I’ve been a role player my entire career,” he said. “I didn’t really focus on points, but I focused on defense, and I accepted that. I kept working at it, get better at it.”

They spoke of the strong teammate chemistry they value and how much they will miss the shared time on the court. 

“All of this comes to an end, and we won’t see each other as much,” said Yanez. “If Coach invites us back for the Red and White Scrimmage, we’re going to whoop up on those freshman and Lincoln.”

Both Brandl and Sherer plan to play basketball in college (Brandl at McCook Community College in McCook, Neb. and Sherer at Southwestern College in Winfield) and they know it will be an adjustment.

“We will have to adjust to a whole new game in college,” said Brandl. 

Schneider plans to attend college in McPherson, where he will shoot trap. Yanez is currently undecided about his plans. Shafer still has another two years of high school. 

The boys shared compliments for each other’s abilities and recalled their favorite moments, both on and off the court. Highlights included both state championship weeks and staying together in hotels, as well as a summer trip to a tournament at Oklahoma University. They teased Coach Gooch about his dislike for heights, which was highlighted on their recent trip to the State Capitol. 

While the boys’ plans vary, they’re determined to stay in touch. 

“Last summer, we stayed in touch with the seniors and I’m sure we’ll do the same this year,” said Shafer.

Each of the players encouraged their younger peers to relish every moment. 

“It will fly by,” said Brandl. 



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