Smackover’s senior boys’ basketball program struggled through a 4-22 season last year. Coach Caleb Spradlin hopes to steer the ship toward a winning direction as the Buckaroos return the bulk of their roster.
“We only lost one senior from last year's team,” said Spradlin. “There are nine guys on this year's team that gained valuable experience last season. We will count on our four seniors to provide leadership and toughness.
“Our goal this season is to be the best that we can be every day. There is a lot of work to be done in a short amount of time and our focus will be to get better every day and the rest will take care of itself. We have to lay a foundation built on hard work and discipline. If we do that, we can get this program turned around.”
Smackover, traditionally, boasts athleticism. This year’s team should be no exception.
“We are blessed with a lot of length and athleticism. We will have to find ways to use that to our advantage,” Spradlin said. “However, our new conference, the 6-3A, is full of teams with the same attributes. We will have to play a disciplined brand of basketball to have success in what is arguably the best basketball conference in 3A.”
Spradlin said junior Brandon Lockhart could anchor the backcourt at point guard after starting last season. Sophomore Jarius Burgie will be counted on as well to handle the basketball and as a perimeter defender.
On the wings will be senior Austin Goodwin, junior Jakessio Welch and sophomore Daylon Curley. They will be expected to contribute on both ends of the floor.
In the frontcourt, the Bucks will look to sophomore D'Kylan Hildreth, who could be a tough match up for most teams.
“He can play all five positions on the court and we feel that we can use his versatility on the perimeter and in the post given his matchup that night,” said Spradlin.
Senior T'Jay Modica, senior Javion Lee, and senior Breylon Love, “bring a toughness and physicality that we will need inside. Their roles on this team will be pivotal to our success,” said Spradlin, who took over the program during the off-season.
“With this being my first year as the head coach here at Smackover, our success will be determined by how hard the kids work and how they buy into this new system. Success will not happen over night but if I can get them to trust us and buy into our vision, I think we can start to see the rewards of that this season.”
The Buckaroos opted out of the football playoffs on Tuesday, so several players just started playing basketball last week. Spradlin said Covid-19 has already impacted his program.
“Missing out on a summer of full practices and team camps is unfortunate for us with me being a new head coach here,” he said. “We have a lot to work on in a short amount of time, but I feel like I have the kids needed to get it done.”
Smackover opens at Emerson tonight, beginning with senior girls at 5 p.m.