Take a Mallard Creek boys’ basketball team that finished 20-9 last season.
Subtract former head coach David Rutledge. Continue subtracting everyone who saw regular playing time, except seniors Terrance Durham and Bryce Steele.
Add a freshman, two sophomores, six juniors and one more senior.
Mix thoroughly under the close supervision of new coach Jon Hancock.
Hancock brings 17 years of varsity basketball coaching experience with him, and the early results with Mallard Creek have been encouraging.
The Mavericks are off to a 3-2 start to the season and have seen Durham’s scoring rise from just about 10 points a game last season to 25 per contest this year.
The 5-foot-10-inch guard has benefited from Hancock’s ability to coach to the strengths of his team – a trait that piqued the interest of Mallard Creek athletic director Karen McKaig.
“(Hancock) came with experience at a lot of different schools,” McKaig said. “He had shown the ability to build programs from scratch, as well as coach different styles of play. He’s also been, consistently, really successful.”
Hancock most recently coached at East Burke High School, where in six years he led the program to a Catawba Valley 2A conference title in 2013 and earned coach of the year honors.
For his career, Hancock is 107 games above .500 (283-176).
“He is an extremely detail-oriented student of (the) game and student of the kids,” McKaig said. “He studies film and brings the kids in on that learning process. He not only has a firm grasp of the game and how to motivate kids, he also brings the ability to pass that analytical intelligence on.”
The decision to leave East Burke wasn’t an easy one for Hancock.
“It was tough to leave,” he said. “We had a lot of success during my time there. But when the Mallard Creek job opened up, I saw it as a unique opportunity for me.”
The chance to compete for a Division 4A state title was one Hancock – who has never won a state championship – found himself drawn to.
“Mallard Creek is a place where you could eventually have a real chance at a title, and that opportunity was certainly part of the allure,” he said.
Hancock has already made big changes to the way the Mavericks play.
Last year’s team – much like his squad at East Burke – was veteran-laden and able to run complex set plays while out-muscling opponents.
This year’s team lacks that kind of experience and size.
So Hancock re-engineered the Mavericks to play in a manner that better suited what they did well.
“It’s been a big difference,” Durham said. “We’re playing a completely new style. Last year’s team had a lot of set plays. This year we are fast but not that tall. We’re focused a lot more defense.”
This season’s version of the Mavericks routinely plays a full court press for the entire game. To keep players fresh, everyone plays. The seven-man rotation of last year is long gone.
“We’re very young,” Hancock said. “A lot of the players that made us successful last year have graduated. We are inexperienced, but we are playing hard and getting better. This league is just killer. We’re trying to get better every day.”
The transition has gone relatively smoothly so far.
“The kids have been very accepting,” Hancock said. “Everything’s different. I’ve had to learn what the team does well, and they’ve gotten to learn what I do. I know it’s very different from what the previous coach did, but they’ve been trying to buy in, and I just hope we can continue to improve.”