CRESTVIEW — First-year Crestview High School boys basketball Coach Greg Watson got a preseason look at his team on Monday and Tuesday during the Fort Walton Beach Tip Off tournament.
Crestview picked up wins over South Walton and Blount, Ala., but Watson says there is work to do as the Bulldogs continue preparing for their season opener next Saturday at Pensacola High.
"The good thing about playing the preseason games is I felt like it kind of gave us an idea of who we wanted to be," he said. "We didn't play extremely well, but I thought we got better from game one to game two. We are a long way from where we want to be, but I saw a lot of good things we can improve on that will make us a quality team by the end of the year.
"Our guys are working hard. We are trying to fix things that we need to improve on. I couldn't ask for a better bunch of guys."
Perhaps the most important thing Watson is trying to instill in the team is a defensive mindset.
"The biggest thing for me is defense comes first," Watson said. "That's not necessarily one of our weaknesses, but we need a lot of improvement on man defense and that's one thing we are going to play. But it did improve from game one to game two.
"We want to be really tough in half-court man defense. We want to outrebound everyone we play ... I want our team to be known as very good defensively and very good at rebounding."
Watson said he prefers to run a half-court, man-to-man defense, but he won't hesitate to switch to a full-court press or a zone defense.
Watson hopes to take advantage of Crestview's athletes on offense and create baskets in transition with players like Josh Hinton and Ronnie Baylark. But he says the team's strength might come on the inside with Denzel Ware and L.J. Aaron.
"We have an advantage over a lot of teams inside, with Denzel and L.J. inside that can cause some teams trouble," he said. "We really want to pound it inside and kind of play offense from inside out."
Crestview's transition offense will be missing combo guard Tay King until around the first year. King, who Watson said will play some point guard and some two guard, hurt his right shoulder just as he was starting play his best basketball.
"He was coming on and was going to be a really good player for us," Watson said of King. "Once we get him back, we feel like we are going to be real strong."
Watson said the preseason games' biggest benefit was it gave him and his team the opportunity to go through the mechanics of a game in the way the coaches and the players respond.
"I told our guys, 'Obviously you want to win because you want to win every game you play, but this is a chance for us to go see what we need to work on,'" he said. "It's easy in practice, but this gave us a chance just to go over game situations. For example, how I do timeouts and things are different than other coaches so I felt it was good to get us ready for the season."
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524.