Ready to take a step

Pan­thers boys hoops hope for im­prove­ment

The Calvert Recorder - - Sports - By ANDY STATES as­[email protected]­news.com

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.”

FILE PHOTO BY ANDY STATES

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.

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