Jefferson boys’ basketball coach Kevin Morris didn’t want his team to forget about last season’s first-round state tournament loss to Westminster and came up with a creative way to ensure that wouldn’t happen.
Morris had practice shorts made up with the score (53-50) and the team’s 3-point shooting percentage (25.8) from that game printed on them to serve as a daily reminder.
“I had them (printed) upside down so when they look down, they see that on their shorts,” Morris said. “I hope it pissed them off. I think we have done a good job of taking that negative and I think we’re going to turn that into a positive for this year.”
Entering a new season, the Dragons continue to work on the shooting issues which dogged them in the Westminster loss.
“I really think we did a good job spending a lot of time this summer shooting the basketball … I feel like we’re going to shoot the basketball a lot better,” Morris said.
There was plenty for Jefferson to like about last season, save for how it ended. The Dragons went 17-11 against a tough schedule. That included beating state finalist Hart County twice.
“We definitely got closer as a team last year, on and off the court,” said Jacob Radaker, the Dragons’ 6-foot-9-inch standout post player. “It wasn’t just necessarily basketball building. It was people building. The chemistry really got better … Overall, it was a pretty good season other than the first-round loss. We know what we have to do to finish out games.”
One of Jefferson’s strengths last year was a balanced scoring attack, and the Dragons can again call on multiple players for points.
The Dragons’ roster includes Radaker (13.7 points per game last year), who has committed to play at Navy, as well as Daniel Parker (7.3 points per game), Owen Parker (7.4 points per game) and Kam Robinson (6.8 points per game).
“We have seven, eight people that could lead us in scoring every night,” Owen Parker said. “Jake is probably going to be a constant this year. He’s going to be hopefully 20 points a game if we get him the ball. They can’t really stop him in there, and the guards, they can switch off every night. One of us can have a big night, and the next night it can be somebody else.”
Michael Johnson, who will move up to the varsity this year, provided a breakdown of the team’s offensive options with Radaker being able to stretch the floor with his outside shooting game.
“When you come in for a screen, the guards are so quick off the ball, they can just take it in, or he (Radaker) can either roll it or pop it and just expand the floor,” Johnson explained. “And if they cover it, he can always dish it for an extra shot.”
With at least a dozen players in the rotation, depth is also a major strength, allowing for competitive practices.
“A lot of times we’re going to have to work harder in practice than we may have to work in some games just because of how deep we are,” Morris said.
‘CHANGE THE BANNER’
The Dragons hope everything adds up to a special season after last year’s postseason disappointment. The team’s mantra is to “change the banner” by winning a region championship; advancing to the Elite Eight or Final Four; or by winning a state championship.
Radaker said he sees no reason why the Dragons can’t win the region and advance deep in the state tournament. Johnson said “the goal is the state championship.”
Teams may use a state title as a goal, though sometimes that’s not realistic, according to Morris. This team is different.
“We do have a chance to win a state championship, and I hope they understand that’s going to take a lot of work,” Morris said. “The ball has got to bounce our way several nights, and you’ve got to work every day in practice.”
And if that happens, Morris may have a much different pair of shorts made up for next season.