Great Mills boys hoops shoots for state ti­tle run

Bur­rell has big goals for Hor­nets boys hoops team this win­ter

The Enterprise - - Front Page - By COLIN STOECKER [email protected]­news.com

Walk­ing out onto the court for his third year as head boys bas­ket­ball coach at Great Mills, Jeff Bur­rell com­mands re­spect from his play­ers.

His coach­ing style is one of re­laxed con­fi­dence, and if he sees a player not hus­tling, the whole team runs the length of the court and back.

His team is ready for more suc­cess, es­pe­cially af­ter last sea­son was cut short with a nar­row loss in the Class 3A South Re­gion cham­pi­onship game.

Un­der Bur­rell’s lead­er­ship, the Hor­nets are ex­cited to see what they can ac­com­plish both on the court and in the class­room this win­ter.

“I’m ex­cited about ev­ery­thing from the first prac­tice,” Bur­rell said. “The only thing I wasn’t ex­cited for was cuts be­cause that’s kind of an emo­tional thing. I wanted to see how the new play­ers would come in. I wanted to see how ex­cited the com­mu­nity would be com­ing to see the games. I’m ex­cited for the com­pe­ti­tion in the SMAC. I’m ex­cited for our new guys, to get a chance to play in the nest. It’s a big deal get­ting a chance to play at Great Mills.”

With two sea­sons al­ready un­der his belt as coach, Bur­rell has big goals for his Hor­nets.

Af­ter a 12-11 record dur­ing the 2016-17 cam­paign, he led the team to a 19-4 over­all mark and a per­fect 12-0 record in South­ern Mary­land Ath­letic Con­fer­ence Ch­e­sa­peake Di­vi­sion last sea­son.

“Last year was my sec­ond year and it was just blast,” he said. “Ev­ery­thing from the stress to the suc­cess. We had guys last year that were hard­nosed, hard-work­ing and hum­ble kids. They loved the game, and I’m ex­cited to send Demetrius Barnes on to col­lege. That was a bless­ing that

he’s gone Di­vi­sion I. I’m ex­cited to see Devon Kilmer join the Navy. Those things I’m ex­cited about last year, see­ing how good men de­velop and do things in their life, and putting a ban­ner up in Great Mills High School that’s a big deal for the SMAC cham­pi­onship.”

The Hor­nets’ re­turn­ing play­ers are just as ex­cited to take an­other run at a state ti­tle, and an­other highly cov­eted ban­ner to hang in the Great Mills’ gym­na­sium.

“You al­ways want the same suc­cess, but every year is dif­fer­ent,” Bur­rell said. “There’s a few play­ers to be ex­cited about. You’ve got Do­minic Brooks, he’s a ju­nior. Jer­rell Bonds is an­other

ju­nior that just came from JV. And then our se­niors over­all. We have a pretty deep se­nior class this year, and it’s cool to be able to see them go from fresh­man with me to se­niors and go full cir­cle.”

One of these re­turn­ing play­ers from last year is Brooks, a 6-foot-7 ju­nior power for­ward and wing player.

“We had a great record last year,” Brooks said. “Last year we started off kind of slow with dif­fer­ent play­ers and dif­fer­ent schools. And we had to click and stuff, but we had a lot of young play­ers com­ing up that were on JV still. So we had a good sea­son. We had to learn a lot and to­wards the end of the sea­son we were

ready for any­body. I’m most ex­cited about the new play­ers that we’ve got com­ing up from JV. They’ve learned a lot and we all seem ready. My per­sonal goal is to win the state cham­pi­onship, and SMAC be­hind us. I love block­ing shots and play­ing de­fense.”

If you ask Bur­rell about his lineup, there is not an ounce of stress in his voice, as he doesn’t have a def­i­nite an­swer even with the first game ap­proach­ing fast.

“We don’t have a start­ing lineup yet,” Bur­rell said. “Every sin­gle day we play for a jersey. There’s five that come on the court every game I guess. But they earned it that day.”

Bur­rell’s coach­ing style is some­thing that he de­vel­oped with years of ex­pe­ri­ence and he knows how to feel out a new team each sea­son.

“I just stick around and en­joy some of it. I’m into it. I’m the ex­cit­ing coach that the ref­eree has to keep telling back away coach from the line,” he said.

“I’m the guy that’s ex­cited when things are go­ing good, scram­bling my guys, high-fiv­ing, and when things are go­ing bad, I’m kind of think­ing ways that we can turn things around a bit. I start calm­ing my boys down and find­ing a dif­fer­ent strat­egy to be suc­cess­ful.”

When faced with the task of lead­ing his play­ers to vic­tory, Bur­rell wants his team to achieve in the class­room as well.

“One of the big­gest ob­sta­cles this sea­son will be main­tain­ing that good GPA,” he said. “We are blessed to have a 3.4 on av­er­age GPA. That’s good to have at Great Mills, so that will be our big­gest chal­lenge. On the court, bas­ket­ball is bas­ket­ball. Most teams run sim­i­lar de­fenses, the kids ac­tu­ally get ex­cited to walk away with big sto­ries, but I just pre­pare for suc­cess and en­joy the ride.”

The Hor­nets are sched­uled to play their first game of the sea­son at 6:30 p.m. Fri­day at North Point.

STAFF PHOTO BY COLIN STOECKER

Great Mills bas­ket­ball play­ers jump in a drill at an early prac­tice last week to start off the 2018-19 sea­son. The Hor­nets are look­ing to make a fur­ther run at states this win­ter un­der third-year head coach Jeff Bur­rell.

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