Ready to take a step
Panthers boys hoops hope for improvement
Things started off well enough for Patuxent’s boys basketball team a year ago, as the Panthers defeated South River in their season opener to earn R.J. Buck a win in his first game as the team’s head coach.
Unfortunately, Buck’s perfect win percentage was short-lived, as the Panthers went on to drop their next five decisions and were never able to string together two consecutive wins in what ended as a 5-17 campaign.
But looking over his team at practice on Monday night, Buck felt optimistic about the potential this year’s group has to take positive steps in the season to come.
“This group that we have right here is so much different than last year because they play extremely hard,” he said. “They play a lot harder than last year’s team and that’s something that I love about these guys. They’re a very disciplined group. Second-year going in, you start to see the guys kind of taking on the identity of the coach.”
That increased familiarity between coach and players has led to a change in the atmosphere that’s clearly evident, according to junior Derrick Mellen.
“I think the second year in the system is a lot better than the first one,” he said “Last year was kind of a feeling-out stage. Now it’s more strict and disciplined. You can see the difference in players. The way they’re acting, they way we’re practicing and things like that. I think that’s going to
help us during the season, too.”
Patuxent did not have the luxury of much size a season ago. That has not changed. Varsity experience is also less, with just two seniors on a roster that is loaded with players who were on the junior varsity squad a year ago. But none of that
means the team can’t take steps forward this year. The Panthers do boast tremendous team quickness, which they hope will allow them to dictate the action.
“We have to be able to control pace,” Buck said. “We have to be able to control the tempo. We have to speed people up, use our speed and get out and run. We have to build everything upon our defense. If we can get stops, turn people over,
speed people up, I think we’re going to have a very successful year. And we have to rebound. We have to rebound the ball, especially with our size. We have to play as a team on both ends of the floor. If we do that, I think we’ll do fine, and they show a lot of promise with that already.”
“We have a young team and we’re fast,” Mellen added. “We’re in shape and ready to run and I think that’s going
to help us play against bigger teams since we’re a smaller team. I think being in here in the gym conditioning and working out is really helping us, and also for the years to come. We have a lot of sophomores on the team this year, so that will be good for the future.”
Also vital for the youthful squad, which is scheduled to open its season at Calverton at 7 p.m. Friday, will be keeping their minds on their own objectives rather than becoming consumed with anything opponents or the environment might throw at them.
“I think the challenges are going to be just staying mentally tough during the game,” sophomore Noah Kuney said, “just staying locked in the whole time and not letting anything get in our heads.”
Patuxent head boys basketball coach RJ Buck talks with his team during a game against Huntingtown last season. The Panthers will look to improve on last season’s record in the year to come, which is Buck’s second at the team’s helm.