You only get one shot at a first impression, and new Nevada head boys’ basketball coach Tyler Struck left a lasting one on his future players at the end of the 2017-18 school year.
Struck was hired at Nevada early last spring. A couple months later, he made the four-hour trek from his former home of Beatrice, Neb., to meet with the returning and upcoming Nevada players.
“I think our first meeting was in the auditorium - he called a meeting and talked a little bit about himself,” senior Devin See said. “I really like how he came all the way from Nebraska just to do that. That really showed a lot about who he is and how he’s willing to make that long drive just to meet us for a little bit.”
Struck continued to make that drive once a week during the summer. He made around eight trips from Nebraska to help out the Nevada players with a basketball league in Ankeny, team camps and open gyms before finally settling in at Nevada.
“I want to be like that,” injured Nevada forward Jakob Strottman said. “Commit to something and just do it like he does.”
That dedication is only part of the reason Struck has been a hit with his new team after practice got underway this week. He has a great grasp of the game and loves to get everyone involved.
“He knows what he’s talking about,” See said. “We’ve been doing a lot more motion and movement on offense and that’s really going to be great for us as a team. If everyone else is moving and cutting around it will be a lot easier to get people the ball and score.”
As a graduate assistant coach and administrative assistant at UNI from 2003-06, Struck learned the game under the tutelage of current Creighton men’s basketball coach Greg McDermott.
“The biggest thing I took from him was how to treat people,” Struck said. “When I was there I was one of the lower guys on the totem pole and I was treated just like his top assistant or best player. I think that goes a long way.
“From a a basketball and an Xs and Os standpoint - trying to take advantage of your mismatches and trying to take advantage of what the defense is doing when you’re on the offensive end (is what I learned). Mac had a bunch of set plays and counters to those sets and different things like that I obviously took with me and believe in. Defensively, how hard you have to play.
“I’ve been very fortunate where I’ve coached that I’ve been complimented a lot on how hard my kids have played and as a coach I don’t think there’s any better compliment you can get.”
At Beatrice, Struck went 105-37 over six seasons. His teams won four-straight River Cities Conference titles and reached state in both 2013-14 and 2014-15.
After moving to Nevada, Struck said Iowa teams tend to run the floor more and shoot quicker. He plans on getting up and down the floor at Nevada.
“We don’t have a 6-7 or 6-8 kid,” Struck said. “I’ve been walking around the halls and I haven’t been able to find them yet. We need to play to our strengths and we have a lot of athletic guys and a lot of same height-type guys, so pushing the pace and playing a little faster game is going to be an advantage to us.”
To go along with his motion offense, Struck is a firm believer in stout man-to-man defense. But he isn’t afraid to switch up to a zone from time to time.
A deep bench is something Struck also plans on taking advantage of in his first year with Nevada.
“I think our strength is in our numbers,” Struck said. “I believe night in and night out we can have as good a bench as anyone we’re going to play.”
Nevada does have some rebuilding to do in Struck’s first season.
The Cubs lost their top three scorers from last year - Trent Stahl, Om’Unique Wilkerson and Luke Merfeld - along with workman forward Jack Higgins to graduation. Strottman also likely won’t be available after tearing his ACL during football season.
“To me I technically lost everybody - all the guys I coached last year stayed in Nebraska,” Struck said. “So as far as I’m concerned I kind of came in with a fresh slate. I think that’s helped some of our guys.”
Junior guard Tyler Sansgaard is the top returning scorer for Nevada at 5.6 points per game and See averaged 4.5 points and 2.9 rebounds a year ago. Senior Jack Cahill will help out in the post and junior Kody Kruschwitz, sophomore Ayden Rhodes and senior Jacob Sanders also saw action in at least 10 varsity games last season.
Nevada opens the season at home Nov. 26 against Grundy Center. Four days later the Cubs host Roland-Story for their Heart of Iowa Conference opener.