Coming off a 25-4 season – when an experienced Jay M. Robinson team won their conference tournament title and reached the third round of the 3A state playoffs – the Bulldogs are now forced to rely on youth to rebuild.The team started the year 2-8, and Robinson coach Joe Pike admits that bringing the inexperienced team together has been a slow process, with four underclassmen and a senior transfer in the starting lineup.“They’re making steps forward,” Pike said. “We’ve been in most of the ballgames we’ve played this year ... but for many reasons we didn’t finish out. We’ve allowed adversity to get in the way.”Pike added that the Bulldogs, which graduated 10 seniors from last season’s team, have to play through their mistakes to grow up and learn to play with a high level of intensity for four quarters.As the they get used to playing together, the coach also hopes his players will do a better job of spreading the ball and picking each other up on the court.Sophomore Connor Boothe said a lack of mental maturity has hurt the Bulldogs at times.“We put our heads down too quick,” Boothe said. “If the other team makes a run, we have to keep on fighting.”Robinson has shown glimpses of what the future could hold. The Bulldogs have several players capable of putting up big numbers.Boothe, a 6-foot-5 small forward in his second year on varsity, has led the team in scoring, averaging 16 points per game.“He’s a pure shooter,” said Pike. “Connor can go through streaks of just lightning it up at will. ... If we can get him to go to the boards like he shoots the ball, we’ll be in good shape.”Freshmen Keyshawn Farris is having a breakout season, averaging 13 points per game. The 6-foot-2 starter has impressed his coach.“Keyshawn is playing big,” said Pike. “He’s averaging eight rebounds a game for us, had a couple of double-doubles already. He’s just a solid player.”Farris said adjusting to a new tempo and style on varsity has been a challenge.“You have to work harder and harder each game to improve,” he said.Fellow freshman Jordan McKenzie – the team’s starting point guard who averages 10 points per game and leads the team in assists – agrees.“You’re playing with older guys, so you have to live up to the expectations,” said McKenzie.Robinson has missed last year’s senior leadership, although Pike said Will Scott, a reserved senior, has stepped up this year.“He’s come a long way,” Pike said. “Since he hasn’t been the go-to guy in the past, it’s hard to put yourself in that role. But I think it’s coming for him.”The guard transferred back to Robinson after spending a year at First Assembly and has also made key contributions. Scott started the year averaging 12 points per game.And sophomore Carl Tucker, a varsity returner, has contributed with six points per game as a starter.Although the Bulldogs got off to an 0-2 start in South Piedmont Conference play, with losses against strong Concord and A.L. Brown squads, they built some confidence by defeating Hickory Ridge in a gritty 58-54 game at the East Lincoln Winter Jam during the holidays.The win also broke a six-game losing streak.“It felt good to get a win, so hopefully we can get used to winning again,” said Tucker. “If we get the feel of it, maybe we can all go out there hard and get some more wins.”Pike said how many more wins the Bulldogs earn will depend on how the team continues to develop.“There could be no limit for what they can accomplish this year,” said Pike. “Athletically, we can match up with anybody, so it’s a maturity thing. Our growth will depend on how close we become and how quick we can do it.”Farris said that this leaves Robinson only one option.“It’s time to grow up.”This story went to print before Robinson’s Jan. 4 game against Northwest Cabarrus.
Tuesday, Jan. 08, 2013
Inexperienced Bulldogs look to grow up quickly
Jay M. Robinson starts two freshmen, two sophomores and a senior
Jay M. Robinson point guard Jordan McKenzie is one of two freshmen starters. The Bulldogs are young this season, but they have potential for the future. SERGIO TOVAR - firstname.lastname@example.org
Sophomore small forward Connor Booth has led a young Jay M. Robinson basketball team in scoring. After losing only four games last year, the rebuidling Bulldogs started the year 2-8. SERGIO TOVAR - email@example.com
Sophomore small forward Connor Booth averages 16 points per game for Jay M. Robinson, but says he believes there still needs to be growth on their team. SERGIO TOVAR - firstname.lastname@example.org
Guard William Scott is the lone senior starter for Jay M. Robinson, which is starting four underclassmen. SERGIO TOVAR - email@example.com
Tovar: 704-358-5941; Twitter: @sergiotovar
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