Tigers work on depth question at summer tourney
By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
A lot can happen between now and the start of the season in November. Then again if this past weekend's T.R. Miller Summer Tournament is any indication, Tigers coach Rob Atkinson may be getting a lot closer to finding his starting unit.
That quintet would consist of seniors Damien Jackson, Tye Walker and Gerald Banton along with juniors Laine Lucas and Chris Byrd.
"Right now we've got five players I'm pretty comfortable with. A big key for us is how well those number six, seven and eight players develop between now and the start of the season. Developing that depth is probably the biggest thing we wanted to work on at this tournament," Atkinson said.
For what it is worth, the Tigers went 4-5 over the weekend with wins over Hillcrest, Northview (Fla.), Brantley and Flomaton. They suffered setbacks to Southside, Monroe County, Niceville (Fla.), Milton (Fla.) and Escambia (Fla.).
"Even in the summer, it's never too early to experience winning. I felt we were competitive in every game and we had a lead in the first half in every game," Atkinson said. "Summer ball is a chance to work on some things and we did some things we probably wouldn't do during the season. The pace of the games was up and down the floor, but that's just typical summer ball. We had leads late in games where we continued to push the ball whereas during a regular season game we would probably hold it. We played some pretty good competition from the south half of the state and the Florida panhandle. All in all I was pretty pleased."
The Tigers graduated three
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players from last year's 16-12 squad. Among the personnel losses include the team's leading scorer and top three-pointer shooter, Greg Bogan, and the team's top rebounder, Trey Paul. Also gone is post player Kreij Bougard.
The Tigers showed some ability to to hit from outside during the tournament. Their best performance from outside came in a 59-47 triumph over Brantley. In that game, T.R. Miller hit nine three-pointers, which included seven treys from Damien Jackson and Gerald Banton.
The perimeter shooting was just one reason why Banton may be the Tigers most improved player from last season.
"When we moved Gerald into the lineup the second half of last season, he was pretty much just a defensive specialist. Since then, he has really started to blossom as an offensive player," Atkinson said. " I also feel both Chris and Laine have improved a lot since last season as well."
One area that hurt the Tigers last season and continued to hurt them at the summer tournament was their ability to contain good, tall post players. Of course, the fact T.R. Miller does not have anybody taller than 6-1 in its starting unit has something to do with that.
"Our lack of size hurt us last season and it hurt us again during this tournament," Atkinson said. "Take the Brantley game for example. Even though we won, they had some good, big post players and we had a tough time shutting them down once they got the ball. The big key is to prevent those players from getting the ball as much as possible."