LAUREL HILL — Veteran Laurel Hill boys basketball coach Kent Zessin will have his hands full this year with one of the youngest Hobo teams in recent memory.
“This is one of the youngest teams I’ve had,” Zessin said. “There were a couple of years in 2003 and 2005 that I only had one senior, but this year I have three. I actually am only returning three players that have any kind of game experience.”
The three Hobo seniors are Garrett Alford, Tommy Calloway and Matt Lewellyn. Calloway is the lone one of the three who’s seen real playing time.
Lane Strickland and Tamaria Calloway, Tommy’s brother, are the other two players with significant game experience.
Zessin has been around long enough to know that having a young team doesn’t necessarily mean it will be a rough season.
“We had some pretty good years, those years we had just one senior,” he said. “One year, I think we ended 29-2. And I think Brad’s (Reese, now playing professionally in Europe) junior year we were 25-4 or something like that. Of course, having Brad helped us a bunch.”
“It’s just like any other year,” he said. “You want to make sure the fundamentals are taught and being done correctly, because that’s your future. The sooner you get that foundation built, the sooner you can start doing more things.
“These guys have got a pretty good foundation as far as fundamentals. Improving those fundamentals each day we come out and work is the key.”
Zessin said he has been impressed by how much the younger players have learned as he has installed the offense and defense.
“I’m pleasantly surprised how they pick things up quickly as far as the scheme and run offensive plays and those kind of things,” Zessin said. “I thought it might be a little too complex for them, but so far they have been doing pretty good with it. The intelligence level of the game is surprising for me the way they are picking things up.
“It’s going to be the type of team where you will definitely see improvement as the year goes along. You are going to have to go out and use each game as a stepping stone, win or lose, and know you have to improve each day in the gym when you get a chance.”
Although young, the Hoboes aren’t exactly lacking in talent.
At 6 feet 5 inches Strickland, a junior, will be one of the taller players in the district and will give the Hoboes strong play in the paint.
“We can build around lane on the inside,” Zessin said. “And we’ve got some quickness in the guard play (with the Calloway brothers).
“We will try to keep it well-rounded on offense and just take our opportunities depending on what the defense gives us.”
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524.