Rouse head coach Shane Krause hasn’t experienced anything quite like he has this year.
The Raiders lost their three top scorers from a team that made it to the second round of the playoffs last season. While the team started out a little slow, they have won three straight games and seven of eight and sit atop the district standings at 4-0 at Christmas.
“At first it was a little scary,” Krause said. “But just how hard these kids have worked and stepped into roles is just incredible. I’m always optimistic and think very highly of them, but they’re exceeding the expectations I had for them.”
Rouse made the playoffs for the second year in a row a year ago and advanced to the second round before losing to Nacogdoches. It was the deepest run of any LISD team last season.
Krause said he leans on the overall experience of the team rather than just the postseason results.
Carter McMahan is a three-year play for the Raiders and is the veteran of the group, and Trevor Berry played big minutes for Rouse last season. The two are leading as far as what to expect at this level.
“Our kind of five guard offense, that’s completely new to me as well,” Krause said. "So we’re kind of learning and growing together. It’s our first experience utilizing that strategy. It’s been fun and we keep getting better at it.”
Berry is the team leader in points per game (13) and also leads the Raiders in assists (4.3). McMahan is the best rebounder for Rouse (6.5) and is tops in steals (2.5). Keaton Brown is second on the team in points (12.1) and Ben Escobar is second in rebounding (3.8).
“I didn’t really change much because, in the summer, I’m used to playing like that,” Berry said. “It was an easy transition being responsible for assists and making sure that the team is in the right spot.”
Last year’s team was led by Kyle Mitchell with 14.1 points per game. Michael Forster — who now plays at UT-Dallas — averaged 11.6 points and 6.8 rebounds and Gavin Sharp with 9.3 points and 6.7 rebounds were the top three players.
With the loss of scoring and rebounding, this year’s team has taken on a different form. Rouse has shifted to a smaller lineup that focuses on solid guard play and shooting.
“It’s made me step up more as a player, I’ve had to take more of a leadership role,” McMahan said. “Everyone has done a good job of stepping up too and filling their roles. It can be hard, but it’s a next man up mentality and we kind of lean on that.”
At the beginning of the year, both Berry and McMahan Raiders appeared shy and timid. The Raiders lost two of its first three games, falling to Vandegrift 67-60 in the opening game and dropping a game to Vista Ridge 52-43 on Nov. 28.
They won four of five games at the CCCA Tournament in Corpus Christi, and in their last two wins against Georgetown and Cedar Creek combined to hit 30 3-pointers.
“We rely on (our experience) a good amount,” McMahan said. “When it comes to close, clutch time in games, we just rely on staying calm and not having to calm everyone down. Everyone knows what they’re doing so it’s a shared goal.”
The Raiders have a non-district game on the road against Round Rock on Jan. 2 to get back from the Christmas break. They then play three of their next four games at home, first hosting Hutto on Jan. 5 at 7 p.m.
“We started out the season slow, but it feels like every game we’re getting better,” Krause said. “You want them peaking at the end of the year and it feels like we’re continuing to build the momentum. Our potential is limitless.”