LAURINBURG — It’s all about the process for Scotland High School’s boy’s basketball team and new head coach Michael Malpass.
In fact, the team slogan is “passionate about the process.” There are several steps in that process, but it boils down to three key points, Malpass said. First, the coaches have to be willing to work hard and re-teach from week-to-week. Second, the players have to decide on one or two leaders amongst themselves, and third, the team has to become mentally and physically stronger than everyone they face.
If the Scots meet those three criteria, Malpass said, they will be a competitive basketball team. Malpass joined the Scotland program over the summer, coming from a job at Crenshaw Christian Academy in Alabama where he won two state championships, in the 2009 and 2010 seasons.
“I just want the kids here to feel success but it doesn’t instantly happen,” Malpass said after the season-opener against Seventy-First. “It all looks good on the outside when teams are winning. But you’ve got to go through what it takes to get there, and you have to enjoy it … some days practice is dreaded but it’s got to be something that you mentally fight through and take yourself somewhere you’ve never been.”
One area that Malpass is focusing on is Scotland’s defense. He has run the 2-3 zone defense in the past, and said it fits the players he has now really well. The zone defense involves a lot of sprinting from side-to-side, so the Scots run a lot in practice. Part of the process means the team needs to be able to think when they’re tired, Malpass said. At the end of practice Friday, after the team had already run the full length of the court several times, Malpass had them shoot free throws and talked them through the routine of taking deep breathes and thinking before they take the shot.
The physical practices are all part of the process.
“Teams that pressure you can beat you faster than anybody else and we practice that every day. We do six-on-five drills … the culture I’m trying to build here takes doing six-on-fives and seven-on-fives every day for a month until they get it,” Malpass said. “Part of playing against pressure is being excited about the challenge, but we’re still looking at pressure and (aren’t) really sure what to do and that’s because the culture of what it takes to be as good as you can be is not present right now.”
Malpass now leads a program that hasn’t had sustained success in recent years, but he does have a few experienced players to use in his planning. Seven of the 10 players on the roster are upperclassmen. More are expected to join from the football team when their season comes to an end. Although the exact number of players coming over isn’t known yet, Malpass said they will be worked into the program when they do arrive.
The team is heavy in the guard position, so the Scots will likely play with three guards and two post players most of the time, but will occasionally rotate in a fourth guard. The Scots have a couple of big players in the post with 6-foot-9-inches center Carrington Graham and 6-foot-6-inches forward Jeremias Easterling. Jordan High, 6 foot 5 inches, will be another post player for Scotland.
Basketball season officially got underway last week, when Scotland hosted Seventy-First. The Scots lost that game 72-49, but Malpass said a loss can often help the learning process move along faster.
“When you lose, it lights a fire and shows your true gaps, shows where you need to get better,” Malpass said.
Changing the culture around a program takes time, Malpass said, and he has to be sure not to overwhelm the players. Malpass said he watches the game film after each contest and decides what the team needs to focus on in the next week or practices. But no matter what, he wants his team to approach each practice and each game with the same mentality.
“We don’t want to get over-confidant after a win or too demoralized after a loss,” Malpass said.
The Scots are back in action on Tuesday when Red Springs comes to Laurinburg. The girls’ game begins at 6 p.m. and the boys play after. Malpass said there is a difference between practice speed and game speed, so the more games the team plays, the better.
“It’s important to play games because they teach you what’s working in practice and what isn’t,” Malpass said.
Malpass said his championship teams have all had a good leader to step up in the locker room or on the court and let the other players know it’s time to get serious. He said is will be looking for one or two of the Scotland players to fill that role this year, but exactly who it will be remains to be seen.
“We’ve got to have a leader. We call him the glue, because he holds everything together and keeps the team committed,” Malpass said.