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Late start nothing new for T.R. Miller boys

By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
Late starts due to football are something T.R. Miller Tigers basketball coach Rob Atkinson and his predecessors have grown accustomed to dealing with just about every season.
Of course that has not made Atkinson's job any easier.
Prior to this week Atkinson had just seven players available at the varsity level. Despite that figure, the Tigers were able to beat Escambia County 49-43 in their season opener last week.
"We haven't even had enough players to have a full squad scrimmage until this week without bringing up some ninth graders or some other people from within the community. During that time we worked a lot more on individual drills," Atkinson said. "It makes it tough on us, but the success of our football team is great for our kids, our school and our community."
The late start is not the only thing Atkinson and the Tigers have to overcome this season. T.R. Miller has to replace four key cogs from last season's lineup that produced a 19-8 record and an Area Tournament championship.
Ryheen Drakeford, DaWaun Johnson and Neal Cheatham were all double digit scorers, while Dominic Johnson provided some valuable contributions as well.
"We lost a lot of scoring with those players. They shot the ball pretty well and they were a pretty good defensive group," Atkinson said.
This year's T.R. Miller squad will probably not intimidate any opponent with its size. The Tigers do not have anybody taller than 6-1.
"We really don't have any true post players. As a result we'll probably use a three-guard lineup with two forwards," Atkinson said. "We don't have a lot of size, but that has usually been the case here for a long time. We'll have to play the same way we did last year…with good defense and taking care of the ball."
Atkinson plans to build his backcourt around 6-1 senior Kreij Bougard and 6-0 senior Greg Bogan.
"We're looking at Kreij for the point. He is an outstanding passer and sees the floor well. Kreij is very unselfish on the floor, perhaps too unselfish at times. He likes to pass the ball off, but sometimes we need to encourage him to shoot the ball," Atkinson said. "Greg was our point guard last year, but we're moving him into a shooting guard role this season because he has the ability to score some from the wing."
Skylar Fountain, a 5-9 senior, and George Arauz, a 5-6 junior, will provide some depth at the guard spots.
"Fountain is a good defensive player and he has incredible quickness. Arauz is an unselfish player. He passes the ball well and plays pretty good defense. He shoots well from three-point land," Atkinson said.
T.R. Miller's inside game will likely come from 6-0 senior Trey Paul, 6-0 sophomore Laine Lucas, 6-0 junior Tye Walker and 6-1 junior Rodney Lane.
"Trey is probably our go-to player inside. He has the ability to go inside or outside. Lane is 6-1, but he jumps like he is 6-4. Lucas and Walker have both been practicing hard and will probably see some time," Atkinson said.
Where does the Tigers coach see his team at this point?
"We need to work on our inside game and our ability to score concerns me," Atkinson said. "At the same time we do pass the ball pretty well."
T.R. Miller Tigers
Basketball Schedule
Nov. 25 Escambia County Home
Dec. 5 Andalusia Away
Dec. 11-13 Escambia County Tournament at W.S. Neal
Dec. 19 Monroe County Home
Dec. 20 Northview Home
Dec. 26-29 Red Level Tournament
Dec. 30-Jan. 3 T.R. Miller Holiday Tournament
Jan. 6 Clarke County Away
Jan. 9 Flomaton Home
Jan. 10 Jay (Fla.) Away
Jan. 13 W.S Neal Home
Jan. 16 Clarke County Home
Jan. 20 W.S. Neal Away
Jan. 23 Northview (Fla.) Away
Jan. 24 Jay (Fla.) Home
Jan. 27 Escambia County Away
Jan. 30 Greenville Home
Jan. 31 Red Level Home
Feb. 3 Flomaton Away
Feb. 6 Monroe County Away