While the lady Scots have compiled a team that’s been forged through years of playing together, the varsity boys’ basketball squad faces a much different scenario heading into the 2012-13 season.
The first two games on the Scots’ schedule (road games against Southern Lee and E.E. Smith) were postponed to allow returning head coach Jackie Amos more time to assemble his squad, which is set to include six players from Scotland’s 2012 football team that finished the season with a 12-2 record.
And though the season will begin Tuesday Dec. 4 in the first of two back-to-back home games, this year’s Scotland squad is still seeking its’ identity. The Scots have lost nine seniors from the 2011-12 team that went 10-15 under departed head coach Michael Dease, and expectations for this year’s squad have Scotland finishing in the lower-half of the Southeastern Conference.
But that hasn’t stopped Amos from utilizing the unflattering preseason predictions to his advantage as he prepares his team for their regular season debut.
“Nobody is predicting us to do well in the conference this year,” said Amos, who is beginning his third stint as the head coach of the Fighting Scots. With a career at Scotland High School spanning 25 years, Amos held the head coaching position from 1990-94 and 2002-05.
“We don’t have the size some of the other teams possess, and the players I have didn’t play many minutes for us last year. With that said, all of these things are motivation for us to show everyone that we have what it takes to be competitive,” he said.
When one door closes, another opens. That old adage is precisely what will fuel Scotland point-forward Tra’Shawn Gregory as he prepares for the rigors of the upcoming basketball season. After a varsity football campaign that saw Gregory haul in 13 receiving touchdowns, the dynamic 6’3” athlete seeks to continue that success on the basketball court and put his football team’s 23-6 playoff loss to New Bern last week in the rear view window.
“The loss to New Bern was disappointing, but I kept my head up after that game because I knew I had basketball to look forward to,” Gregory said. “As far as this team goes, we have to find out what our character will be on the court and learn to play together as a team so we learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses.”
“This team coming together as late as it did definitely poses a challenge, but it’s a good challenge in my opinion,” Amos said. “The football players have already played in one competitive season already, and I believe that they can help instill a winning attitude and leadership in the rest of our guys.”
Though Dease only logged a single season with the Fighting Scots as their head coach, he incorporated a successful offensive system that Amos hopes to build upon in 2012-13. The system, which favors an uptempo offense that allows the speed of Scotland to shine in the open court, plays to the strengths of the players that are at Amos’ disposal.
But in order for this system to prove effective, a strong-willed point guard with the instincts and know-how to command the offense is invaluable. Knowing this, Amos has two candidates in mind that could adopt the role of ‘floor general’ this year for the Scots: Miguel McKeithan and Trejon Monley.
Both players began last season on the varsity Scots, but opted instead for more playing time on the JV squad. It was an experience that benefited both according to Monley.
“At the beginning of the JV season I didn’t have everything I needed to be a good player, like ball-handling skills,” said Monley, whose older sister Jonissa won the Southeastern Conference player of the year last season for the lady Scots. “But later on we had some winning streaks that gave me confidence, and I know that it’ll carry over into varsity. I just have to work hard as a player and a member of the team.”
Ultimately, the success of this season will hinge on two factors: The maturation of the team and the ability to prove naysayers wrong. Scotland big-man Aly Kaba hopes to embody both in 2012-13.
“One the one hand it’s a good thing to be underrated because it gives us a chance to be underdogs and surprise people this year,” Kaba said. “But it’s also sad because Scotland basketball isn’t on the map this year. I know we can win games, so it’s up to us to keep our grades up and learn to come together as a family out on the court.”