Boys basketball preview: Q&A with coach Newton Mealer

Calvin Dockery (20) and Kaeden Laws (24) practice press breakers Nov. 1.

Laine Crabb, Staff Writer

The first home basketball game of the season Nov. 5 pits the 2019 5A state champion Mustangs against the Hawks of Holly Springs High School. The Hawks are the 3A state runner ups. Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m.

Q: How has the team looked in the offseason and in the preseason tournaments?

A: We worked extremely hard this summer, we went 29-4. I’ve pushed this team harder mentally and physically than any other team I’ve had, because the opportunity to repeat is a difficult task.

Q: After the state championship, the team probably feels on top of the world, so how do you get them back to the basics?

A: We enjoyed winning the state championship, and we took some time to reflect on what it meant to be a champion. Our goal is to be the first DeSoto County team to repeat a championship. The guys have embraced that opportunity, and this summer is where we have really started with that. We had to say, “Last year is behind us, this is a new year.” We had three of our former players speak to our team at the first practice, which was Calvin Temple, Kevin Henry and Dan Ellington all talking about, “We gotta move forward, and we gotta prepare for a new season.”

Q: Have any players stood out to you as a new leader after having someone with the talent of Calvin leave?

A: Yeah, I think we have two. They both played last year and they both helped us win. Kaeden Laws has taken a big, big role being a vocal leader, and also Decorian Payton. He’s a guy that everyone on the team looks up to, and what he does we try to get behind. Both of them have taken great leadership roles for our program.

Q: You got named to coach the All Star team. What kind of honor is that to you? 

A: It’s a big honor. First of all, it’s a team sport and I understand that. Last year was great. I was named the USA Today Coach of the Year, I was named the MAC Coach of the Year, I just found out I was named the National Federation of High School Coach of the Year, and now I’m the North All Star Coach of the Year. A lot of that comes from being successful as a team, but personally for me it’s about my guys. Working as hard as I have over the course of my life to get to this point, I’m extremely happy that I was recognized by my peers as being one of the better coaches.