El Dorado News

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December 15, 2017
El Dorado News Times

Bulldogs have high aspirations

This article was published November 24, 2017 at 5:00 a.m.

By Jason Avery

News-Times Staff

The first two games of the 2017-18 season have left a positive impression on Strong coach Greg Anthony.

The Bulldogs are off to a 1-1 start, having fallen at home to Parkers Chapel before cruising to a win at Emerson in their second outing, and Anthony said there has been plenty of improvement from a year ago when the Bulldogs went 8-18 and missed the state tournament.

“We’re a little bit more versatile than we were as far as being able to extend our defense into full or three-quarters,” Anthony said. “For two games, we’ve been able to hold our own on the boards. We’ve gotten stronger over the past year, and we’re able to bang a little bit more inside and not get as physically worn out.

“Another thing has been our free-throw shooting. It’s been really good compared to what it was last year. I guess probably more than anything is we haven’t turned the ball over as much. Derrion Davis is playing the point and he’s doing a very, very good job of protecting the ball and getting us in our offense and doing the thing a point guard is supposed to do. That helps a lot.”

Several of Strong’s players also recently concluded football, and Anthony said the team is transitioning well.

“They’ve transitioned pretty well as far as going from one sport to the other,” Anthony said. “Physically, they’re not quite there yet because after every play in football, you get a 25-second break, so you go hard and then you rest whereas you’re constantly going in basketball, so we’re still working on that aspect of it. For the guys, I think they’ve done a very good job with the mental aspect of changing gears.”

With conference play set to begin just before Christmas, Anthony said he wants his team to continue to keep moving in the right direction.

“Just to see that we’re steadily progressing the closer we get to conference,” Anthony said. “We don’t want to peak in non-conference. You just want to keep steadily ironing out the flaws that you have and the things that are causing you problems. After that, you want to be hitting your stride the closer you get to conference and on in to the district tournament.”

Next week, Strong will compete at the FBT Bank & Trust Tournament in Fordyce, and they also compete at the Highland Tournament after Christmas.

“We’re the smallest school in it,” Anthony said. “It’s really a good tournament up there. It will be good for our guys. It’s a three-game guarantee. We usually go to Hampton, but they called and said they were one team short. They offered to pay all of our expenses in order to come up to the tournament.

“Our purpose in going up there is not necessarily with winning on our minds. You always go into it with that, but with the new ranking system, we’re trying to get us some better looks at some of the other schools, plus there might be some schools that we can watch while we’re up there that we could play later on.”

The Bulldogs will play the event short-handed, as Desmond Newton and Trey Smith, two of Strong’s key contributors, will be in Dallas competing in a football event, which will allow Anthony to give some younger players some playing time against stiff competition. A junior varsity tournament will give playing time to even more players.

“That’s one of the reasons I’m going,” Anthony said. “Everybody is going to get to play. I think it’s going to be a great experience for the guys.”

With Davis at the point, Newton and Jadarrius Dixon are set at the other guard spots. Smith and Tyrese Rogers are at the post spots.

Overall, the Bulldogs return three starters from a year ago, but depth could be a factor as the season goes along, particularly with the loss of Lavonte Washington to a knee injury suffered during football.

“We were depending on Lavonte Washington some, but he messed that knee up in football, and he’s not back,” Anthony said. “Other than those, we’re really young after that.”

LeAndrew Greer is slotted as the sixth man with X-Zavier McHenry also seeing playing time.

“It concerns me, but we’re just going to have to learn,” Anthony said.

“I’ve been playing X-Zavier McHenry some, and he didn’t play basketball last year. We’re using him some, especially whenever we’re pressing because him and LeAndrew are so athletic.

“They help us a lot in running the floor and covering. They’re both long and can run and jump. We’ve got about seven that do a pretty good job of doing what we’re trying to get done. It’s going to be hard without a lot of experienced depth.”

As far as the conference is concerned, Anthony said the Bulldogs are playing catch-up due to football, but he believes they will be ready to go.

“The other ones have been playing,” Anthony said. “They’ve got several more games than we do. Last year, we ran into the fact that we had only played only four or five games, and everybody else had played 12 to 15 games. Starting out, we’re just a little bit behind everybody, but I think we can catch up. I really like this group. They’re real coachable, and they’re good kids that have been around.”

Strong returns to action on Monday when they take on Parkers Chapel for the second time this season in the opening round of the FBT Bank & Trust Tournament in Fordyce.

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