HED:Tigers return experience, but Lady Tigers will be young
By Gregg Ellis
Northeast men’s basketball coach Mike Lewis says that if his team is to improve upon its 16-14 mark from a year ago, last year’s freshmen will have to step up their play.
It’s a different story for women’s coach Ricky Ford. After finishing 18-5 and winning the regular season North Division title in 1998-99, this year’s freshman class has to produce immediately for the Lady Tigers to continue their success on the court.
And that class includes 11 newcomers.
“We’re basically behind schedule,” Ford said. “With 11 freshmen, it’s been a slow process learning the offense and defense. We have a great group of kids, and we’re getting there. It’s just going to take a while.”
Ford does have four returning sophomores and one starter, forward Kamiya Thorne.
He’s hoping they will take a leadership role and help the freshman make the transition from high school to the college level of play.
“I hope my sophomores understand how important being great leaders is,” he said. “I’m waiting for them to step up and take control of this team.”
While is team is picking up the man-to-man defensive scheme, the offense is coming around at a more slower pace.
However, with repitition and game experience, Ford said his players will improve.
“We have a continuous type of offense,” he said. “We’re always moving and looking for a good shot. There is so much involved in execution as far as timing and screening are concerned.
“Our new players are not accustomed to the shot clock,” he added. “In the early part of our season, I think you’ll see a lot of rushed shots, turnovers and disorganization. Hopefully, we’ll get better with each game.”
The men welcome three starters back from last year’s team that placed second in the North Division, including Eric Batchelor.
Last year, Batchelor lead Region 23 in scoring with a 22 point average.
Also returning Baldwyn’s Guy Gardner and Memphis native Deltorio Campbell.
“We have a chance to have a good season,” Lewis said. “A couple of things must happen. First, the freshmen and sophomores that didn’t play a lot last year must step it up. And second, we must take care of outside scenarios, like grades and other things.”
After four weeks of practice, Lewis said he has been pleased with his team, especially with the efforts of sophomores Demario Watson and Nick Coln and freshman Thomas Gentsch of Iuka.
Last year, both Watson and Coln averaged 20 minutes a game coming off the bench. This year, they will be inserted into the starting lineup.
“I think our players are a good fit for community college basketball,” Lewis said. “Overall, we’re a little above average in size. Our two guards are 6-2 (Gardner) and 6-4 (Coln).
“Last year, we lost six games by one point,” he added. “We had a lot of guys with first-year playing experience. This year, we have depth and experience.”
Both the Tigers and Lady Tigers will get a good test when they take to the court against Meridian in the opening round of the Northeast Tip-Off Classic. The women begin play at 6 p.m., followed by the men at 8 p.m.