By Malcolm Butler
To say this past summer was one of learning the hard way would be an understatement when talking about the Cedar Creek boys basketball team.
According to head coach Lance Waldron the Cougars played 16 summer games. They lost all 16.
“We aren’t going to be nearly as experienced as last year,” said Waldron. “Most of these guys don’t have significant playing experience (on the varsity level). We played with nearly everyone off and on this summer. We got a good feel for what we needed to work on.
“We identified three things we needed to focus on: shooting, defense and our toughness. Those were the three things that we have been focusing on following our summer games. We lost a lot of size. We lost a lot of experience. We lost a lot of athleticism. We lost a lot of that (to graduation).”
However, Waldron — in his second year as the Cougars head coach –hopes the lessons learned on the hardwood this summer pay dividends for his young squad that lost all five starters from last season.
“It wasn’t a time for wins and losses,,” said Waldron. “It was a time for seeing what we needed to work on and that is what we accomplished. It’s about repetition. We’ve been working a lot on shot selection. They are teenagers so they are going to take some bad shots. We understand that. But we are trying to teach the guys that we want the best shot.
“There are good shots and there are bad shots. But we want the best shot. We want to move the ball around and get it to where we want it. Those are the shots we want. The guys are starting to get it.”
Tuesday night saw a sign of growth for the Cougars as they defeated Class 5A West Ouachita 62-57 during a scrimmage at the Brickhouse. It was the second scrimmage for Creek which fell to Castor a week ago.
Junior Jack Bell scored 23 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter, while sophomore Jake Doan added 22 points in the win over the Warriors. The Cougars won despite being without senior Connor Johnson (Cross Country), junior James Myers (football), junior Landon Hall (Football), and sophomore Blake Robinson (Football).
“It’s good to have that type of scoring,” said Waldron. “And that was without Connor. Connor is a quiet leader. He just works. When he steps in between those lines it’s 100 percent work. He is a great example for the other guys.
“Jake has really been working hard. He is a workhorse. He is emerging as a sophomore. He is going to score some points for us. Jack Bell … we are going to lean on him. He is a pretty good shooter, but he is working on the rest of his game. I think everybody knows he is a good shooter, but he has been working on his strength. He did a good job against West Ouachita of taking it to the hole in the second half and finishing strong.
“Luke (Waldron) is a really good rebounder for us. Our best rebounder. He scores the ball really good at times. There will be some other guys who emerge for us as well.”
Cedar Creek lost Carter Hill, Davis Walsworth, Connor Norris, Brian Osborne, and Jack Echols to graduation off a team that fell 83-50 to eventual state champion Northwood-Lena in regional action of the Select School Division IV playoffs last February. This year’s Cougar roster includes only two seniors in Johnson and John Abram Earle.
“Most of these guys are younger, so we have some people that are going to be here for a few more years,” said Waldron.
Although there is still plenty of room for improvement with the entire season still in front of the Cougars, Waldron has been pleased with the groups mindset.
“I think a strength of the team will be its attitude,” said Waldron. “They are really buying into what we are doing. They are starting to jell even though it may be hard to tell right now. Once the season progresses, we will see what we are made of. I don’t have a crystal ball, but there are things that we hope to see as the season goes on. I feel like its a good group, and we will be okay.”
Waldron said defensively the Cougars are working on multiple facets on that side of the floor.
“We want to be a multiple defensive team,” said Waldron. “And we weren’t that last year. It has taken a lot of time to get all of that covered and installed. And we are still working on it. We still don’t have a multiple defensive system like we want it, but we are getting there. Throughout the season, I am hoping we can give multiple defensive looks.”
Cedar Creek opens its season Nov. 14 at home against Saline.