By Brandon Speck
Aberdeen is always in the contender conversation, always a threat in Class 3A basketball.
That fact hasn’t changed this season, but for the first time in nearly three decades, the Bulldogs aren’t coached by Roy Hazzle, who always said his teams would “never duck and dodge” good competition.
First-year head coach Cornelius Gilleylen learned a lot as Hazzle’s assistant and that’s one tradition he’s carrying on.
He’s also making sure his teams know how to play different styles against different teams. Against a zone, it goes inside-out, beginning with 6-foot-5 forward Marcus Carouthers.
“It seems like each team we play, we learn something different,something new, ” Gilleylen said, “At the end of the day, we’ll have played every type of team and nothing will be new to us.”
Aberdeen, Northeast Mississippi’s No. 3 team, has already played Class 1A champ Biggersville, 4A and 5A contenders Shannon and West Point, 6A contender Meridian and Tennessee state champion Lausanne – a split with Shannon and a win over Lausanne.
The Bulldogs (9-6) will be a big favorite to win the Monroe County Tournament this week – they play Hatley tonight – and have tough non-division games against defending 2A champ and contender Baldwyn on Jan. 24 and at Class 6A contender Starkville on Jan. 30.
“We’re coming along good,” junior forward Juwan Davis said. “We’ve just got to keep playing as a team.”
Carouthers, one of three Carouthers brothers on the team, leads the team in scoring, followed by Tylan McMillian and Terrell Carouthers.
The Bulldogs were without starters Nick Sims and Derrell Carouthers, twin to point guard Terrell, and older brother of Marcus, Friday in a tight eight-point loss at No. 1 West Point.
Gilleylen used it as another teaching point.
“I told them we were going to slow it down a little bit and fight,” Gilleylen said. “Because down the road, we’re going to play great defensive teams and we’re going to have to get to the point where we can just execute over and over and over.”