NETTLETON BOYS: Tigers steady themselves

By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal

NETTLETON – As far as Class 3A boys basketball powers go in Northeast Mississippi, there’s Holly Springs, Ripley, Corinth and Aberdeen.
That’s also the pecking order of this week’s Daily Journal rankings.
Nettleton, however, is another area school that shouldn’t go without a mention because it usually finds itself in the mix. The Tigers have already put together another 20-win season and have the talent to make a run at the state tournament in Jackson.
Ranked fifth in the Journal’s 3A rankings, Nettleton is 20-2 heading into tonight’s game against Houlka and is 4-0 in Division 2-3A.
So how does this year’s Tigers team compare to previous teams?
“This team is a lot bigger than we’ve been in the last couple of years,” said Tigers head coach Grant Gardner, who did acknowledge that this year’s team has been relying a little too much on its size rather than good technique.
This season the Tigers not only have size but have had great guard play night in and night out.
“We got veteran guards,” Gardner explained. “Both our guards are three-year starters.
“Our kids know what we want and they make plays. They’ve been there and done that before. There’s nothing better to have than experienced guards out there.
“They’ll make the plays we want them to make. They aren’t going to force anything. They’ll make other teams go out and beat us. We won’t beat ourselves.”
Brandon Jamison and Blake Birks certainly deserve high praise as starters, but guards Kreig Pounds and Nick Ruff – both slowed by injury – have provided quality minutes off the bench – a bench which has been another strong suit for the Tigers.
“We play nine kids roughly every night,” Gardner said. “We rotate fresh bodies in, and most nights they’ve (the reserves) been effective.”

‘Jack-of-all-trades’
There’s also a special weapon off the bench for the Tigers in 5-foot-10 senior Jerrod Farr.
“He’s a jack-of-all-trades,” Gardner said. “We use him at all five positions. Off the bench, he can come in and play any of the five positions.
“We can plug him in and keep going. We don’t have to sub position by position.”
A true test for the Tigers will be this Tuesday when they face rival Aberdeen.
“We have to play really well and really go out and compete against those guys,” Gardner said of his team’s chances of beating the Bulldogs. “It will certainly be a tough assignment.”

Contact John Wilbert at 678-1572 or john.wilbert@djournal.com.