Neal hoops turn to the future with McCollum
By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
Rome was not built in a day so why should the resurrection of the W.S. Neal Blue Eagles basketball program be any different.
First-year coach David McCollum will try to lay the bricks to a successful foundation, which is something the program has not enjoyed for a number of years.
In fact, a year ago under preceing coach Tom Lawler the Blue Eagles limped across the finish line with a 1-22 record.
"We're just trying to get back to the fundamentals. It starts there," McCollum said. "The other big thing we're trying to develop is attitude. If you think you're beat before you even play, then you are going to lose. We have to maintain a positive attitude if we would happen to get off to a bad start this season. We don't want that 'here we go again' attitude hitting the players once again."
As a first-year coach, McCollum admits he has had his fair share of learning to do.
"I've had most of the players in class as a teacher so I pretty much knew most of them before practice started. There is just so much paper work and responsibility involved with the position. There is a fine line between being a coach and being a buddy to the players. As a new coach and one who is not a lot older than they are, they're going to feel me out to see where I stand with them. I want the players to know I care about them as people and what they do beyond the basketball court," McCollum said.
On the court, the W.S. Neal skipper is having to deal with injuries and inexperience, especially when it comes to his post game.
"We're thin inside right now. We're dealing with current injuries and some players coming off injuries. We've also had to move some people around," McCollum said.
The most significant current injury is with 6-3 sophomore forward Jared Cooper, who has a torn meniscus. Cooper may miss the first two to three weeks of the season.
"We need for Jared to get healthy. He is a big body inside who can pound people and rebound," McCollum said.
Terrell Sanders, a 6-2 senior forward, just returned to practice after a knee injury.
"Terrell just got cleared to play by his doctor. We're probably looking at him to play both the small and power forward spots. He handles the ball pretty well for his size," McCollum said.
Spencer Williamson, a 6-3 junior forward, is out for the sport for the first time at the high school level.
"Spencer hasn't played since eighth grade. He has worked hard trying to relearn the game and getting in basketball shape. He is a lot like Jared in that he is a big body we can use inside," McCollum said.
Ron Dexter, a 6-2 senior forward, has moved down low this season.
"Ron is having to play some out of position. He'll play some on the perimeter and down low," McCollum said.
Rohin Travis, a 6-0 junior forward, is being asked to go inside with the big boys.
"Rohin isn't very big for the inside, but he plays much bigger than his size. He jumps extremely well. We're going to need him to bang people around inside and rebound," McCollum said.
In the backcourt, McCollum said he does not have true guard positions.
"Our guards are going to have to do multiple tasks. They're going to have to handle the ball, shoot and even play some small forward roles. Our offense is going to be an inside-outside style," McCollum said.
Two of those guards, 6-1 sophomore Johnathan Alexander, and 6-0 junior Cecil Thomas, had promising junior varsity seasons last year. Both are expected to move up this year.
"Johnathan is very athletic. He has the ability to be a defensive stopper for us. He'll play some at the point guard spot, but we also need his athleticism for rebounding," McCollum said. "Cecil has worked very hard. He is a good shooter and we're counting on him to do some scoring. We're trying to teach him to improve his defensive techniques."
Drew Hester, a 6-0 senior, saw some varsity time last year.
"Drew is a quiet player who leads by example. He does what we need him to do. He is a dedicated player," McCollum said.
Vernon Sanders, a 5-8 senior, is a transfer from Hillcrest.
"Vernon is a good ballhandler. We need for him to control the tempo as well as give senior leadership," McCollum said.
Ronald Travis, a 5-8 junior, will also get some guard time.
"Ronald really gets after it on
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defense. He handles the ball and sees the court well," McCollum said.
McCollum admits he does not know a whole lot right now about Class 3A Area where the Blue Eagles reside along with T.R. Miller, Clarke County and newcomer Straughn.
"We play them all twice before the Area Tournament and we see T.R. Miller at the county tournament and possibly again in their own tournament. I'll have a lot better idea about those schools as the season goes along," McCollum said.
W.S. Neal Blue Eagles Basketball Schedule
Nov. 22 Georgiana Home 5 p.m.
Nov. 23 Frisco City Away 5 p.m.
Nov. 29 Northview (Fla.) Home 5 p.m.
Dec. 3 Clarke County Home 5 p.m.
Dec. 9-11 Escambia County Tournament at Escambia County
Dec. 13 J.U. Blacksher Home 5 p.m.
Dec. 17 UMS-Wright Away 4:30 p.m.
Dec. 27-29 T.R. Miller Tournament
Jan. 7 Clarke County Away 5 p.m.
Jan. 11 T.R. Miller Home 5 p.m.
Jan. 13 Andalusia Home 5 p.m.
Jan. 14 Straughn Home 5 p.m.
Jan. 18 Georgiana Away 4:30 p.m.
Jan. 21 T.R. Miller Away 4:30 p.m.
Jan. 25 Straughn Away 5 p.m.
Jan. 27 Andalusia Away 4:30 p.m.
Jan. 28 UMS-Wright Home 4:30 p.m.
Jan. 31 Frisco City Home 5 p.m.
Feb. 1 Pleasant Home Home 5 p.m.
Feb. 3 J.U. Blacksher Away 5 p.m.
Feb. 4 Northview Away 5 p.m.