Mineral Wells Index
By TONY EIERDAM
With a roster full of quick but small players, Mineral Wells Rams head basketball coach Aaron Pappas will have a new philosophy for the upcoming 2013-14 season.
The Rams, which finished 17-17 last year and were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, will open the season today at 8 p.m. at Joshua.
Back is lightning-fast guard DaShawn Hicks and point guard Biren Clardy. Guards Juvaree Sutton, Nick Wendt, Reece Tarver and Rascellis Williams and also return, but what is not returning is height.
The Rams’ tallest players are 6-3 forwards Coy Barrick, Mark Glover and Broderick Johnson. Guards Dexter Cross, Danton Mitchell, Maceo Williams, Devon Edmond and freshman Jordan Duckett round out the varsity roster.
“We got a totally different group of kids this year,” Pappas said. “We are more athletic, and we are quicker. We are going to be smaller, so we have revamped the way we are going to play.”
Instead of a low-post offense the Rams employed last year to take advantage of height, this season MWHS will “run and gun” on offense and play “pressure” defense.
“We will use a more up-tempo style on offense with a lot of fast breaks” Pappas said “We will also shoot a lot of threes – anywhere from 20-30 a game.
“Defensively, we will try and pressure teams for four quarters whether it be man, pressure or zone presses. We will mix it up. It will look a lot different from last year.
“Last year, we had more of a half-court set and we ran offenses. This will be fast paced and I think we will be fun to watch.”
Hicks is the top scorer returning, and Pappas said he will be a focal point of the offense. But the coach said each guard on varsity will contribute in different ways.
“We have a lot of good guards on this team,” he said. “DaShawn will be one of our senior leaders, and he brings scoring, and he scores a lot of different ways. DaShawn can shot the three-pointer, he can drive to the basket, and he jumps high enough to get offensive rebounds and he is a good defender.
“He is a great all-around player.”
Pappas said Clardy will also play a big role. As a sophomore last season he ran the Rams’ offense with confidence and poise.
“Biren will do most of the ball handling,” Pappas said. “He will be the point guard, and it will be his job to push the ball up the floor and find open people ahead.
“Nick has become a knock-down three-point shooter, and him and Mark Glover have been our most consistent three-point shooters in our scrimmages.
“Nick is also one of our shut-down defenders. We will put him on our opponent’s best guard. Reece will come back from a knee injury on Dec. 1, and hopefully his knee will hold up because he is one of our better defenders.
“Dexter has really improved, and he is great in the open court. He sees the floor well and makes tremendous passes.”
Pappas will be counting on Johnson, Glover and Barrick for rebounds and second-chance opportunities on offense.
“Broderick is a sophomore, and he has long arms and legs,” Pappas said. “He blocks shots, and he has also become a pretty good scorer around the basket. Coy and Mark will also have to rebound for us because we don’t have a lot of size.
“Coy will have to be our leading rebounder and block some shots. Mark is a perimeter player who has developed a post and slashing game,”
Pappas continued. “He is a dual threat. If we put him at post and they put a 6-6 kid on him we will take him beyond the three-point line an if they don’t guard him he will knock down a three. If they put a small guard on Mark we will post him up.”
To put a freshman on varsity a coach must really be impressed with his skill and realize he can handle the varsity level. Pappas said that the 5-11 Duckett – part of a successful and athletic local family – can handle varsity.
“I was wondering early on if he could mentally handle this level, and I feel he can, but watching him in practice he is our top five or six in scoring,” Pappas said. “He shoots well, he handles the ball well and he drives to the basket. He has the total package offensively.
“The weakness he will have to work on is mental toughness and defense. He is not yet a real good defender, but he has a lot of up side and a lot of potential.”
With a lot of new faces and a new philosophy, Pappas will use the first four or five weeks of the season to evaluate his entire roster and find out who fits where.
“The headaches for me and the coaching staff (Tommy Fincher and Neil Mesler) will be, because we are so deep at guard, finding the right combinations and finding out who works well with who.
“The schedule is a mix of good teams and teams we feel we can beat. I wanted to schedule some games against teams where we can get some confidence, but we also have top teams like (No. 4) Burkburnett on the schedule.
“When we get to district, Kennedale is ranked No. 5 in the state and they have got their three big guns coming back (off last year’s district championship team). We will be tested by them and Springtown in district, but that is a long way away.
“I am excited about our new style of play, and what I like about these kids is the hunger they have in wanting to be successful.
“Not only do they want to make the playoffs, but they want to win some playoff games.
“This group is always intense in practice, and every kid on the roster goes hard. They are fun to watch, and it is fun to coach a team with that kind of determination and drive.”