Rebuilding Decatur teams plan contrasting styles
By Mark Edwards
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Decatur High’s two varsity basketball teams will look the same but completely different this season.
Let’s explain that:
Both programs are rebuilding with young rosters. However, the Decatur girls squad plans to run an uptempo style, while the boys will slow it down a little from recent seasons.
Decatur girls coach Brad Boy wishes to take advantage of a roster full of energetic, hard-working players who don’t have a lot of height to play a traditional pound-the-ball-inside style.
“When people watch us play, I want them to say, ‘I’ve never seen a team play harder,’ ” said Boy, whose team went 2-25 last year. “If we can do that and play with drive and play hard the entire game, we will have some success.”
Also, although the Lady Red Raiders have only one senior who is slated to start Saturday’s season opener at home against Hartselle, Boy has players who have worked in his system.
Senior Lindsey Hawkins will start at point guard. The rest of the lineup started last year — juniors Whitney Fletcher, Shannon Laughlin and Ashley Witherspoon and sophomore Britney McCloud.
Junior Mollie Russell will give Decatur’s inside game a lift from the bench, but she has struggled lately with illness, and Boy isn’t certain how much she’ll play against Hartselle.
The Lady Raiders also have four other seniors on the roster — Shana Hubbard, Quita Lyle, Victoria Wynn and Alicia Smith — who will play important roles this year.
“All of our girls need to be ready to play the way we want to play,” Boy said.
Boy added that the squad is upbeat and ready to go, even considering the struggles of last year.
“They never quit,” Boy said. “I can’t sing their praises enough for that. They never wanted anybody to feel sorry for them, and that’s something they learned that they can carry with them for a long time.”
Decatur’s boys lost essentially their entire roster, including the state Class 5A player of the year, Rico Pickett. He played point guard and signed with Alabama.
Head coach Jamie Lee said his squad compiled 2,137 points, 1,250 rebounds and 502 assists last year on its way to a 27-6 record and a spot in the 5A state semifinals. This year, the Red Raiders return 36 points, 21 rebounds and 13 assists.
With almost a complete turnover of the roster, Lee said it will be difficult to run the way Decatur did a year ago when Pickett led the charge.
“We’ll run a more controlled tempo rather than playing the fast pace we did the last two or three years,” Lee said.
The roster includes two seniors (Justin Bishop and Jonathan Brannon), eight juniors and a sophomore.
It is the sophomore who will gain some attention — Lee has slated 10th-grader William Johnson to start at point guard.
Lee named Bishop, Chris Coffey and Brooks Johnson as three players who will be expected to help with leadership and toughness.
Decatur hasn’t had its full varsity team on the floor during preseason workouts because eight of the 11 players are still with the Red Raiders’ football team, which is still in the state playoffs.
“It’s good for the school that the football team keeps winning,” Lee said. “But I hope people understand that the further along the football team goes, the further back it puts our basketball team.”
Lee said he has enjoyed watching the success of the Decatur football team and couldn’t help but notice in one recent game that basketball players scored four of the Red Raiders’ first five touchdowns.
Regardless of when Lee gets his football players back on the basketball floor, he plans on a rebuilding year.
“We’ll be kind of like the football team — we won’t have one star player,” Lee said. “As we step on the court, we won’t be able to say who will be the guy to stop.
“The leading scorer probably will rotate, unlike last year when we knew early who our top scorers were going to be. At the end of the year, we might only have one player averaging in double-figures.”
Decatur’s season opener
Who: Decatur vs. Hartselle.
Where: Decatur High’s Earl Morris Gymnasium.
When: Friday. The girls varsity starts at 5 p.m., while the boys play at 6:30. This is one hour earlier than home games typically will start this year.
Season tickets: Decatur High is selling season passes for all home games at $30 for adults and $20 for students. Fans can buy season passes in the school’s main office.
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