A new season tends to be accompanied by two things: hope and questions. When a new coach is at the helm, both of those are multiplied.

Ben Pallardy is in his first season with the Battle boys basketball team, but he has plenty of experience coaching hoops. Pallardy has coached both men’s and women’s basketball at the collegiate level and previously spent time coaching at Eldon, Fayette and Russellville.

However, leading Battle’s team provides Pallardy with a unique chance.

“I love high school basketball in general, but I’ve always wanted to be at a big school,” Pallardy said. “I think it presents a lot of opportunity. I think we’ve got a lot of guys that can go play college basketball, so it’s a lot of fun to help them on their journey for that.”

Pallardy brings not just experience but his own core philosophies.

Offensively, he said he wants to allow his players the freedom to make plays. That comes with running fewer set plays and focusing more on motion and spacing.

In what he says will be different from what he’s done in years past, Pallardy said the Spartans will utilize a press this season, an idea that was spearheaded by assistant coach Tyree Goolsby.

Battle’s schematic choices have been made conscientiously. Pallardy and Battle’s players see the team’s athleticism and depth — two characteristics which fit like puzzle pieces with an offense that relies on spacing and creativity and a defense that presses — as strengths.

“We got a lot of great guys competing for playing time, so I think wherever we go, however deep in the bench we have to go, I think there’s always gonna be a great guy there,” senior guard Caven Wheeler said.

With last year’s seniors gone, plenty of Spartans will have a chance to step into bigger roles.

“We have a lot of guys that are juniors and seniors that haven’t seen a ton of varsity minutes, and it’s not really all because of a talent thing. It’s just, for one reason or another, they may not have played in the past,” Pallardy said. “It’s kind of exciting to see. We’re an older, talented team that doesn’t have a ton of experience. It’s gonna be very unique.”

Battle does return some players with varsity playing time under their belts. Forwards Justin Goolsby and Ethan Wiley both started last winter and have each taken on leadership roles ahead of their junior-year seasons.

Playing time is up for grabs for all players thanks to Pallardy’s “tournament system” practices. In practice, players are put on teams and compete against one other. In a nutshell, winning more often equates to more playing time in games.

“At the end of the day, it’s basically who makes their team better consistently, and that, to me, is who the best players are,” Pallardy said. “If you win, then you’re the best player, not if you can score the most or if you can make the best pass every once in a while.”

Pallardy switched to this practice system midway through his coaching career and said he noticed an uptick in practice intensity.

The Spartans went 14-8 last season and were bounced in the first round of the Class 6 District 8 Tournament. Now back with a new coach and a fresh roster, they have bigger goals this season.

“We got a chip on our shoulder that we wanna be the best in Columbia, and therefore we wanna win our conference, too, because we know our conference is pretty tough,” Pallardy said.

Battle will compete with Capital City, Helias, Hickman, Jefferson City, Rock Bridge and Smith-Cotton in the Central Missouri Activities Conference.

In addition to sharing a conference with Hickman and Rock Bridge, Battle will play in Class 6 District 7 with them. Blue Springs, Blue Springs South, Fort Osage, Grain Valley and Smith-Cotton are also in the district.

The Spartans open their season Friday against Raymore-Peculiar.

  • MU softball beat reporter. Reach me at cnb3zm@umsystem.edu. Twitter: chris_blake14

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