New playing style gives Eagles optimism

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by Nicholas Williams
Eagle Staff

It was no secret that the basketball team was faltering at the beginning of the season, starting with a 5-9 record. A lot of key players from last year’s team graduated, and the team appeared lost at times without them.

Junior Joshua Reece hustles down the floor on a fast break against Strake Jesuit. Reece starts at guard for the Eagles in a lineup that the tallest player is 6’1”. Photo by Aaron Reiss

“We are a very young team and our inexperience showed towards the beginning of the season,” senior forward PJ Pane said. “But now that we are healthy and a little more experienced we have been able to win some games.”

With so many new faces on the varsity roster, coach Johnathan Kwok was at first unsure on how to mesh all of the players together. This is the reason there was much shuffling of the starting line-up at the beginning of the season. Kwok has now found a recipe for success, even though it breaks from the traditional style of playing basketball; they are playing small ball. Now, the Eagles are looking ready confident for play.

“We now have a smaller, quicker lineup that speeds up our tempo on the court,” junior guard Joshua Reece said. “Playing with two point guards and three wing players on the court spreads out the [opponent’s] defense and makes the game [feel] easier.”

Kwok has decided to deviate from using post players. In the new starting lineup, senior forward Clement Anozie is the tallest player at a height of 6-1. While Anozie plays center defensively, on offensive he functions as another wing man on the court. The new style of play has brought the team much success, but it has had its drawbacks. With such small lineups, rebounding is an issue for the Eagles.

“Our rebounding has been our Achilles’ heel,” Pane said. “But it is much improved as of late.”

The team has been outsized in nearly every game, but this has not stopped the team from being physical on the boards. The Eagles are making up for their lack of size with hustle and tenacity.

The new found physicality is also noticeable on the defensive side of the ball, which has been spectacular as of late for the team.

“The biggest strength on our team is our defense,” Reece said. “Because we have a quicker lineup we can better keep players in front of us. Now we get a lot more steals and draw more charges which are great momentum builders.”

Also, the improved defense relaxes the pressure on the offensive end of the ball.

Senior Clement Anozie drives against Strake. Anozie starts at center for the Eagles. Photo by Aaron Reiss

“If we get down early in the ball game because we cannot make shots, we are still able to keep the game close,” junior guard Jakobi Nunn said. “Also, the turnovers we force create easier baskets.”

All of this has contributed to what is looking like a different basketball team for the Eagles. The team held a record of three wins and one loss in the Rock Hoops Holiday Classic in Round Rock, Texas, in which they played only UIL 5A opponents.

The Eagles have won six out of their last eight games, and are starting district play.

“I am very excited about district play,” Reece said “This starts our run for the playoffs and is the time of year where the Reckling Rowdies get the craziest.”

The Reckling Rowdies certainly have a lot to get crazy about, for the team is looking well prepared for district play.

“Winning is always the focus,” Nunn said. “We have a great team and we’re looking to receive first in district.”

The team is looking great, with virtually everyone on the team contributing something to this winning effort.

“We have plenty of talent and we play well together,” senior forward Pearson Garnett said. “When we put everything together we can beat anyone.”

 

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