Olympic High boys basketball coach Ty Baumgardner said hes never coached a team as close as this years Trojans, who are nationally ranked and No. 1 in the Observers Sweet 16 poll.
Baumgardner is hoping that togetherness translates into big-time postseason success for a school thats never been to a regional or state championship game. In the past two seasons, Olympic has lost in the regional semifinals.
This is probably the most close-knit group of kids weve ever had, Baumgardner said. Thats vitally important to any teams success. We dont have any selfishness. We dont have any jealousy. Weve got five guys averaging double figures. Nobody cares who scores. All they care about is winning.
Deriece Parks (17 points per game), Dante Simmons (13.8), B.J. Gladden (13.6), C.J. Jackson (11.6) and Trey Mitchell (11.4) do most of the scoring. Point guard Jevon Patton, who was among the areas top scorers at Gastonias Highland Tech last season, has become a facilitator, buying into Baumgardners team-first approach.
Patton averages 7.9 assists per game and 2.7 steals for the Trojans, who play East Gaston at home Tuesday. Pattons assists rank third in the Observers coverage area.
With Patton directing a potent offense, Olympic is winning by an average of nearly 23 points per game. But the Trojans have been tested. They beat Harding 78-77 two weeks ago, courtesy of a buzzer-beating, 10-foot jump shot from C.J. Jackson, and recently had to hold off another ME-GA 7 conference opponent, Berry, to win 79-74.
From here, Baumgardner said the Trojans goals are simple: survive the regular-season tests, win the postseason conference tournament and try to get to the state final in March.
It seems like the playoffs are almost here, Baumgardner said. Every year, the season seems to go faster and faster. But were always ready for the playoffs. The last two years, weve knocked on that door (at the regionals) and havent been able to push it open. All we know how to do is to keep knocking and thats what well do this year. But it goes back to this group of kids. They dont ever talk about that kind of stuff. Theyre more concerned with who theyre going to play next in a (video) game of NBA Live when they go home.
Baumgardner said he likes his chances with this group.
They come ready to work and its a different group than weve ever had, Baumgardner said. What does that all mean? I dont know, but Im enjoying the heck out of this group. I enjoy coming to practice.
Weather wrecks schedule
Fridays wintry mix of weather forced major changes to the schedule. Get the latest schedule updates for next week at prephoopschedules.blogspot.com.
Applauding forward thinkers
A handful of schools in the area looked at the radar and saw bad weather coming Friday and pushed games to Thursday, including Mecklenburg Countys Lake Norman Charter (12-4, 7-1 Southern Piedmont), which secured its hold on first place with a 70-39 win over Lincolnton. Malik McCormick had 18 points to lead the Knights.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools did not move games. To be fair, its hard with such a large district to get everyone on board police, game event staff, bus drivers to make a big shift.
I really think its time for CMS to allow the schools more freedom to operate independently. Without the burden to get all schools in line at once, quick scheduling adjustments would be easier.
Assist men at Northside
Im amazed at Northside Christians Jeremy Ritter and Davon Bell, who both average more than eight assists per game. Teammate Keyshawn Woods averages six. In an era of me-first basketball, coach Byron Dinkins really has his team sharing the ball.
In fact, eight players in the Observers coverage area average six or more assists. Thats good and rare to see.