Basketball coaches, players prepare for new season

From staff reports, The Pony Express

With basketball season right around the corner, coaches and players have been working overtime to prepare. Teams were introduced at Meet the Mustangs on Oct. 23 and participated in a jamboree Oct. 27 at Itawamba Community College. The teams’ first games are scheduled for Nov. 3 in Tupelo at the Hound Dog Classic.

The Pony Express sat down with boys basketball coach Newton Mealer and girls basketball coach Emily Owens to get their thoughts on the upcoming season.

Coach Mealer

Q: What are you looking forward to the most this season?
A: “Probably the most important thing I am looking forward to is to take the floor again with our team. We have the opportunity to be a very successful team.”

Q: How have you and the team been preparing for the season?
A: “We started preparing back in May for the upcoming season. We put in a lot of practice time. Since we’ve been back to school we have been lifting weights, running, and doing some mental toughness drills to prepare us for this upcoming season.”

Q: To you as a coach, which is more important, winning or growing as a team?
A: “Oh, that’s easy, growing as a team. The reason is because each year we try to set a championship mentality standard. What that means is, championship mentality is not only just winning basketball games, but that is teaching young guys how to become men and also to be successful in the classroom.”

Q: Who are some of the key players for us to be on the lookout for?
A: “We have two guys that are returning that are Division I college prospects. The first one is senior Calvin Temple. He’s a point guard. He’s committed to IUPUI, which is a Division I school. He will lead our team throughout the season. The second player is sophomore Kaeden Laws. He is 6 foot 4 inches, and he has already been offered by Ole Miss. He can shoot the basketball, is very physical, can score going downhill, so he will be an excellent part to our basketball team. We probably want to talk about Kevin Henry. He’s a senior. I call him ‘The Glue to Our Team.’ Without him on the floor, we don’t really have chances to win basketball games. He brings so much to the table, not only scoring but rebounding assists, and he guards the best player on the other team every single night. Kevin is a big attribute to our basketball team. The fourth guy I want to talk about is Cameron Goodwin. Cameron is a four-year player for us. He has worked extremely hard in order to be in the position he’s in. Cameron is what I call ‘The Mr. Hustle’ for our basketball team. He puts all the pieces together for us. Another guy is Decorian Payton. He brings a lot of energy, plays top of our press and can score the ball. We did get a transfer in late from Lake Cormorant. His name is Kenneth Lewis, and Kenneth will be a very, very important part to our team.”

Q: What are some of your goals for the team?
A: “Last year we got beat in what’s called the sub-state game, the game that gets you to the state tournament, so some simple outlines for this year is we want to have the opportunity to win our district championship, which is the regular season, and the tournament championship. Our second goal is we want to definitely make sure we beat Olive Branch, and our third goal is we want to make sure that we have an opportunity to get to Jackson, The Big House.”

Coach Owens

Q: What are you looking forward to the most this season?
A: “Probably just spending time with the girls, getting to know them better, seeing how much they are going to improve over the course of the year. I just love basketball so I am looking forward to that getting started.”

Q: How have you and the team been preparing for the season?
A: “We’ve been putting in a lot of work since summer, when I first got hired. I am making a lot of changes, and so everyone learning the way I do things is where we’ve had to spend most of our time. Just learning different offenses and things like that.”

Q: How well do you plan on doing this season?
A: “That’s tough, since I am new and I am changing a lot. We have a whole lot of talent for sure, but I’ve been more focused on seeing what we have and not really paying attention to everyone else. I want to get good at us and then see how we compare, so it’s hard for me to say since I don’t really know the competition. But the girls are super talented, so as long as they continue to work hard, I think we could be very successful.”

Q: Who are some of your key players?
A: “All of our seniors I think are going to do great this year. Kaylan Morris is our point guard. She’s extremely talented, works really hard. Got a lot of good athletes in the senior class, and they are leading by example and working really hard, and so I am excited to see what they will do this year.”

Q: What are some of the goals that you set this year?
A: “One of the biggest things is working on team chemistry, and just everyone getting closer as a group. That has been a big goal in the preseason, and I think for us is going to be confidence. We have a lot of preconceived notions about other teams, and so we’ve got to realize what we’re capable of and quit being so concerned with everyone else, and so I think that’s a goal of mine that we have the confidence to do what we do.”

Q: To you as a coach, which is more important, winning or growing as a team?
A: “This year, being new, I’d say growing as a team. Winning is definitely important to me, but I feel like if we don’t play as a team, especially of a group of women or girls, we won’t play well together, which will then mean we won’t win. So I think the most important thing when coaching girls sports is learning to play together as a team and get along and all be on the same page.”

Foundations of Journalism student Tessa Bolton contributed to this story.