Santisteban hired as new basketball coach
The Exira-EHK boys basketball team has hired Tony Santisteban as its new coach for the upcoming season.
“The position came open in the spring after Coach [Doug] Newton decided to step away from being the head coach,” Santisteban said. “I always knew I wanted to be a head coach at some point in my life, and this opportunity came up, and I applied and interviewed for the position, and I was able to secure it.
Santisteban was an assistant under coach Newton for 16 years.
“He knows the game of basketball like the back of his hand,” Santisteban said regarding Newton. “He always took pride in being great at the fundamentals, and he always had teams that were going to compete night-in-and-night-out and year-in-and-year out. He is a class act, and someone I look up to.”
Last season the Spartans finished with a record of 19-5, including winning their first nine games and 12 of 13, and making it all the way to the 1A-8 Semifinal game where they lost 71-52 to the West Harrison Hawkeyes.
During their 2022 campaign, they were led by Juniors Cash Emgarten with 364 points, Aiden Flathers with 271, and Senior Easton Nelson with 243. Senior Derrek Kommes had the most rebounds with 142, followed by Nelson with 128, and Emgarten with 117. Senior Trey Petersen led in assists with 88, Flathers with 74, and Emgarten with 55.
Petersen, Nelson, and Kommes have all graduated, but eight incoming seniors are expected to set the tone and provide leadership for the underclassmen.
“They have been together for a long time now, and work well as a group, but I am looking forward to the beginning part of the season, and before games start up to see who really absorbs the new information, who steps up and naturally takes a leadership role, and who leads by example and just works their tail off,” Santisteban added. “I have a few kids in mind, but I want to see how things play out in the beginning part of the season.
Their season opener will be Nov. 28 on the road against the Woodbine Tigers. The Tigers finished their season with a 16-7 record. They were led by Carter Gruver with 432 points and 106 assists, and Carson Kelley with 146 rebounds.
“I love basketball season,” Santisteban said. “It’s the greatest time of year. I know I’m pumped. My assistant coach, Nolan Himmelberg, is excited for his first season as an assistant coach. The boys had a tremendous football season under new head coach Drew Buckholdt, and I wish they could’ve kept playing, but I think the boys are switching their minds to basketball season coming now, and I know they are gearing up for a new season.”
The Spartans’ five losses last season came against Woodbine, Red Oak, and three against West Harrison, but Santisteban knows it’s a new season and every opponent will be a challenge to get through.
“Everyone is going to be tough and that’s my mindset,” he said. “I am taking it one day at a time, and hopefully the kids can grasp that as well, and just keep improving themselves for the team in all aspects of life and not just in basketball.”