Seconds before halftime of a summer league boys basketball game at Napa Valley College between American Canyon and St. Helena last week, Wolves point guard Oliver Aandahl drove into the Saints’ defense and kicked the ball out to Andres Torres outside the arc.
Torres rose and fired, his shot rattling in as the buzzer sounded to give American Canyon a 31-21 halftime lead.
It was a simple play but one that new Wolves varsity head coach Scott Hayburn hopes to see on repeat this winter, which will be his first at the helm after spending the last seven years coaching at different levels within the program. He took over at the start of the summer after Brett Wedding, who had coached the team since 2014, stepped down to spend more time with his family.
“We’re going to be built around speed and jumpshooting,” Hayburn said after his team’s 63-43 win last Tuesday. “That’s kind of our character.
“It’s going to be a fun style of basketball. That’s my philosophy, is simple, well-executed, fun with freedom of choice for the players. I want to teach the players to play, not have them run a rigid set of plays, but get them out there and let them shoot the ball, play to their strengths and things like that.”
Hayburn inherits a team coming off a promising first season in the newly-formed Vine Valley Athletic League after leaving the Solano County Athletic Conference at the start of the 2018-19 school year. The Wolves went 8-4 in the VVAL, finishing second behind undefeated Napa, and 14-14 overall on the season. They graduated four seniors who logged heavy minutes last season, but return a young core, highlighted by Aandahl (a Register County Player of the Year finalist this year), which was given a boost by the transfer of Torres. He’s spent the last two seasons playing for Prolific Prep.
“Definitely learned a lot, improved the most in the shortest period of time in my life,” Torres said of playing for the nationally ranked basketball academy. “I don’t regret going but I needed to move on and get some more playing time.”
Torres played sparingly in his two seasons with The Crew but will likely be key piece for the Wolves this upcoming season with the team looking to replace a number of starters. He said he transferred to American Canyon instead of other Napa schools because of familiarity he has with several of their players from his time on the AAU circuit.
This summer has been a transitioned not just for Torres, but also the rest of the Wolves, especially Hayburn. He had already made summer plans before he landed the head coaching job and had an assistant run the first few weeks of the summer league program. Hayburn is now back to lead the Wolves for the rest of the summer but said his first few weeks have been “a little disjointed.”
“We have a different group of kids that come out and play almost every game, so it’s hard to find consistency,” he said, but added that the limited numbers has meant more playing time for younger players who need to get up to speed quickly. Plus, it gives Hayburn a chance to experiment with lineups and playing styles.
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“It’s a really good opportunity to get my feet wet and learn some things,” he said.
At the very least, the Wolves are getting plenty of reps in this offseason. They played in another brief summer league at Vanden High School in June and will have logged nearly two months of basketball when NVC’s league ends at the end of this week, Hayburn estimated.
They haven’t won much over the last few weeks, but that’s OK with Hayburn.
“The results of the game don’t matter to me in the least,” he said. “If anything, some of these teams will take us lightly next time they see us. So, that’s good. We’ll fly under the radar for the summer.”
The summer has also been invaluable for the Wolves in terms of making adjustments for their second season in the VVAL. Aandahl and Hayburn both called the transition to a different league “interesting,” mainly because of the different style of play compared to what they came from in the SCAC.
“We came from Vallejo, Bethel, Fairfield, Vanden, which have a little more athletic brands of basketball, a little bit faster, a little bit more confrontational at times; it’s a really good competitive, league,” Hayburn said. “This league is a lot stronger, a lot more fundamentally sound, I’d say tougher in that teams in our previous league come in with athleticism and talent but sometimes toughness is lacking when you have those things, because you have those things.
“This league is a little lighter on the talent-side, but on the toughness side, they make up for it way beyond.”
Aandahl echoed his new coach’s sentiment.
“It was really different because of the pace and playstyle,” he said. “Coming up north against these schools like Napa and Vintage, they kind of play a slower pace. So we’re trying to switch up our strategy because it’s just such a different type of playing styles we’re playing. So it’s kind of really different because with the structure of our team, we need to figure out how we can play better together.”
The good news for the Wolves is that time is on their side. The season officially doesn’t begin until Nov. 4, which should give Hayburn and his team ample room to figure out what kind of team they’re going to be come winter.