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Hazel Park High basketball still battling

Hazel Park High boys basketball coach Brandon Barrett doesn’t have to look far to see the end of his bench.

The Vikings carry eight players, leaving, at most, three players for substitution, but with injuries, that number gets even lower.

Still, Barrett sees the upside.

“As a coach, you always look for depth. We don’t have that, but we have a close-knit team, so I think where we lack in bodies, we make up in chemistry,” the first-year coach said. “You look down the bench and only see three kids, but those three kids are playing so much, they learned to bring something to the team. They’re playing for one another now, because they did stick together and want to win for each other. As a coach, I can’t ask for anything but that.”

Hazel Park won its first three games and, at press time, was 3-6 overall and 0-4 in the Oakland Activities Association Blue Division.

“As far as effort and competiveness right now, I would rate us about an eight (out of 10). The guys come and play hard every night. As far as wins and losses, we’re not where we want to be, but competitivewise, they are there. And ask any coach that played against us — I think they will say the same thing,” Barrett added.

The coach said it’s been on the defensive end and in the final minutes of the game where his team needs to improve.

With the limited amount of subs, Barrett runs mostly a zone defense and said it’s taken some time for his squad to get down the nuances of the system.

Offensively, the coach praised the squad.

“Our strong suit is that the boys get out and run. That’s just what they do naturally,” Barrett said. “I knew we weren’t going to have many kids, but they’re just good at running. The team is in really good shape, but you can wear down.”

Barrett sees the program only going up from here and is seeing signs of overall improvement, even from the JV level.

“The culture is changing. The JV is understanding (what’s expected) now, and I’m looking forward to a huge summer with a lot of camps. The atmosphere in the school is changing, and we’re making this a tradition for years to come,” he said. “We’re headed in the right direction.”

The coach said he wishes he could have this senior group for one more year, but added that he would be satisfied if the class finished above .500.

“We still want to make a run in the states, and go back and beat the teams that beat us in the league. That would be huge for (the seniors),” he said. “Make a last impression and finish the season strong.”

Catch the Vikings take on Ferndale High at 7 p.m. Feb. 6 at home.