IAHS boys’ hoops off to an incredible start

By SCOTTY NICHOLS
Sports Editor

For years, Itawamba AHS has been known as a baseball andScotty Nichols football school, as far as boys’ sports go.

This year’s group of basketball Indians are making the statement, in this young 2016-2017 season, that there is reason opponents to be concerned on the hardwood.

The ladies have enjoyed plenty of success in recent years, including a class 4A state championship season in 2013-2014, but the boys’ squads have always seemed to be a step behind.

Most male athletes have opted to concentrate on football and/or baseball, while some have used basketball as, sort of, a “filler” sport.

Since basketball is so much more fast-paced than either football or baseball, athletes have chosen to play basketball simply to stay in shape for their other sport.

When I spoke with first-year IAHS head coach Darryl Wilson prior to the start of this season, he simply stated that he “wanted basketball players.”

Wilson just wanted players who want to play basketball and stated that he could make leaps and strides with personnel who simply displayed that characteristic, along with the right mindset.

The Indians were moderately successful last season but, this season, Wilson has inherited a group of talented kids who are also true basketball players. It also doesn’t hurt that there are several upperclassmen on the squad.

The Indians have accelerated to a 9-1 start through their first 10 games, with their only loss being a 13-point decision to defending class 4A state champion Corinth, which wasn’t put out of reach until late in the fourth quarter.

The frontcourt duo of seniors Colbe Hodges and Jake Smith may be the best ball-handling guard tandem that I’ve witnessed come through the program in my time here. Both players are extremely comfortable with the basketball in either hand, and also do not panic at the sight of high-pressure defense. They remain calm, keep their eyes up to see open teammates, and take good shots when the opportunity arises.

Senior Tristan Crowder has a sweet stroke from the floor and rarely misses an open shot. Crowder is also an above-average ball-handler and defender, and is capable of playing either the two-guard or the three position.

At six-feet, five-inches, Austin King is a true dual-threat offensive player, as he possesses the ability to knock down shots from outside and mid-range, and can finish at or above the rim.
King’s size, length and leaping ability give him the tools to be a superb defender, as well.

6’3″ Russell Bunch gives the Indians size and strength on the interior and is a hard-nosed defender and rebounder, and can also score on the other end.

Cameron Orr, at six-feet, seven-inches and more than 300 pounds, provides massive size down low, which helps the Indians own the glass on both ends and provides another shot-swatting presence.

Sophomore Corey Mallory is a defensive specialist, with lots of room to grow on the offensive end, who has incredible athletic ability.

IAHS exhibits different types of players all over the court, including several other role players, with each being vital to the success of a basketball team.

This team will be fun to watch for the remainder of the season and should be in the thick of the mix to bring the first division 1-4A title back to Fulton since 2006.

scotty.nichols@journalinc.com
Twitter: @ScotNic24

About Scotty Nichols

Graduate of THE University of Mississippi. #HottyToddy. I like sports. And BBQ.

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